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Crowdsourcing as a Branding Strategy builder

Last week’s post on Social Media Branding at Starbucks got me thinking on Crowdsourcing as a branding strategy builder and its implications on Brands.

Crowdsourcing is basically related to the Web2.0 concept on internet. According to J Howe, “Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals.” It has been used quite often ever since its inception. Several models have grown to existence and brands built on a business model primarily based on Crowdsourcing. Some of the most widely discussed models include Istockphoto, Inno-Centive, etc. Similar programs have been initiated by companies to facilitate problem solving. Mozilla Corporation has launched the ‘Impact Mozilla contest’ which avails its users to submit their marketing plans for the Firefox browser in return of Prizes to the winners.

A branding strategy is seen to be a complex and dynamic process and hence cannot be crowdsourced as a whole, but is it possible to crowdsource the processes of a branding strategy? Yes of course, I see Social Media Branding is a crowdsourcing activity at core where consumers and potential consumers are involved in discussing the Brands they use through digital social networks. This recent change can be accredited to the changing media landscapes which has shifted the focus ‘for the consumers’ rather than the previous ‘to the consumer’. But can other processes of Brand Strategy building be crowdsourced? And if YES, how can processes like integrated communications be framed and executed. Such activities are yet to see sunshine, but the possibilities of their successful implementation cannot be shoved away. Managers reading this post can view this either as a potential opportunity or an upcoming trend to be watched out for. Nevertheless though, if implemented, it will be important to position a strategy to prevent critics and other stakeholders from questioning the management’s ability to make quality decisions.

The implications on the customers of such a strategy can be two-fold, one-side being, an added Sense of Authority and Responsibility towards the Brand and the second –side adding the level of trust existing between the company and its consumers. For the company of course there will be lesser pressure on conducting market research on hard penetrative markets. I reckon crowdsourcing a brand strategy isn’t quite logical for B2C companies and can only be implemented for B2Bs. I say this because the implementation of a successful strategy will 9 out of 10 times depend on the consumer efficacy and the authenticity of their research.

Concluding, it will be interesting to see how such complex processes are implemented. Do let me know if you have encountered such or similar models in your careers. The prevailing question to be answered here is, If Branding processes can be ‘Outsourced’, why can’t they be ‘Crowdsourced’?

7 Responses to Crowdsourcing as a Branding Strategy builder

  1. Lata Vijaybaskar Reply

    October 27, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Meheer, Dell provides possibly the best case study of how a company has successfully integrated social media into its marketing communications, and culture. “Dell IdeaStorm” enables people to pitch their ideas to the company, which the company then uses to assess what is most important to their potential customers before deciding which products and services to offer.

  2. Pingback: Automobile Branding – changing times | Webalue.com Communications

  3. Ed Roach Reply

    October 29, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Crowd sourcing, at least in the example from Mozilla where marketing plans were submitted and winners chosen. Sounds good for Mozilla and bad for marketers. It is essentially spec work. Turns the marketer into a commodity. Lowest price wins – worse in this case because all the marketer gets is a prize. What protection does the marketer have? after all their expertise is all they have. To give it up, up front – what’s to stop Mozilla from following it and not have to pay a dime.

    Outsourcing has a great name, sounds catchy. I guess if you find companies stupid enough to play, anything is possible. From my perspective it only benefits one side of the equation.

  4. Meheer Thakare Reply

    October 30, 2009 at 2:17 am

    A great point, Ed. You’re a genius branding expert.

    Crowdsourcing may have the potential to endager the existence of marketers, but if at all its implications are as effective as that of a Marketer, wouldnt this be the right time for marketers to presume a intellect shift in their profiled responsiblities? If yes, it’d be interesteing to research into the future job profile of a marketer.

  5. Howard Reply

    October 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    First off, a “branding” strategy and a “marketing” strategy are not the same. And as a marketer, if you were to crowd source your brand strategy, that tells me you’re not really sure what your brand stands for to begin with. And to let the consumer decide that is completely backwards. The brand decides who it is, what it stands for and how it resonates with customers. That’s what brands are – something that connects with the hearts and minds of a customer base.

    Now if you’re suggesting crowdsourcing marketing ideas – campaigns, approaches, etc. – that I can sort of see, as it follows a bit of Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing concept. If you approach your target market with the offer of helping to create campaigns, you can find some passionate people who just might give you a great way to market your product/service. There was a great Apple iPod ad several years ago, that wasn’t created by Apple – just a very happy customer who had some time on his hands and some good video production skills.

    I know Doritos has been running a crowd sourced advertising contest around the Super Bowl over the past few years. And Current.tv does something as well, offering their audience the chance to make commercials that big brands will run on their channel.

    Crowdsourcing is like any other marketing tool – use it correctly and it can do good things; use it incorrectly, and you’ll likely damage your brand.
    Enter at your own risk.

  6. Ed Roach Reply

    October 31, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Meheer, I think the genius label is a stretch :) (my wife might disagree) but thanks.

    I guess my concern with crowdsourcing is that it appears on the surface to benefit the initiator more than the participants in the crowd. Someone is always willing to sell for less even if it means they are “buying the business.” This isn’t good for any profession in the long run.

    It is no different than reverse auctions where participants are bidding down to win business. Supplying manufacturers I have talked to are forced into these situations by their customers. It’s very hard to make a decent profit.

    I enjoy seeing win-win scenarios. A little bit of my social conscience is showing through.

    I suppose your right in suggesting marketers should take the time to adjust their value propositions to reflect a changing environment. Would it matter what their future job profile might be when anything can be crowdsourced? The problem for me isn’t the service being sourced but the lack of a perceived value other than price for the sourcer. They may get a rock-bottom price, but how can they appreciate the quality or lack there of, of the service they purchased.

    This is an age old argument, what ever catchy name you put to it. In my world is the same distain for spec work. I guess you touched a nerve with your article Meheer – good job :)

  7. Ben Rennie Reply

    November 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Ice work. The new campaign by Mountain Dew is also an interesting case study. http://unclutteredwhitespaces.com/2009/11/when-campaigns-go-to-the-crowds/

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