Posted by Abe Sauer on April 19, 2010 09:14 AM
By now, everyone knows the advantages a brand can leverage from crowdsourcing. First, theoretically, by crowdsourcing a brand gains access to a wide and diverse range of ideas. A brand that pays attention can even use such crowdsourced responses as valuable market research, indicating what consumers really think of it. Also, through crowdsourcing, a brand's potential consumers may develop a sense of brand ownership, which leads to better brand-owner/brand-consumer engagement. This is why crowdsourcing is hot among brand marketers. But let's take a look at the flip side: why crowdsourcing can be a terrible overall method for branding?
As a research and engagement tool and as one part of an overall brand and marketing strategy, crowdsourcing has its place. It's fast. It's cheap. It appeals to populist sentiment. However, it is becoming all too common for brands, especially small ones, to put integral, core elements of brand identity in the hands of... online voting.
Everyday produces a new mention of a brand that is "having a contest" to "find a new logo." Crowdsourcing also is being used to generate new products and direction for brand identity and, at its worst, create brand collateral such as logos, taglines, etc, such is the case with HTC crowdsourcing the name of its next device.
Yes, voting for something online is technically engagement. Yet it is far from the kind of connection a brand should be shooting for. Meanwhile, those consumers participating in crowdsourcing do not have the larger picture in mind. A brand that presents a huge, undefined group with a few directions and then lets them fly off in all directions is not doing itself or its core consumers, any favors. A brand is the bigger picture and creating it about more than an opinion patchwork and noise is not an identity.
So, go ahead Ford, and Clarins, and, why not, South Africa; crowdsource yourself some brand engagement. But keep in mind the limitations of the medium and don't get seduced by the notion that crowdsourcing is branding. After all, who's in charge of your brand?