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Crowdsourcing: Embrace Thy Consumer

Sorry, folks.  Any marketer reading this post is acutely aware they no longer have control of their brand.  The speed and rate with which consumers absorb information today is evolving at a dizzying clip.  They post, tweet, blog, or whatever fashionable form of tech speak is permitted to express their desires and needs.  Communication act upon act designed to simply be heard. Marketers know this now.  So rather than protect the years of heritage upon which their brand was forged, their mission has changed.  Many are behind the stewardship of a growing trend we know today as crowdsourcing.  Thanks to the prognostic-like abilities of Jeff Howe, a well-respected Wired author who spearheaded advent of this movement essentially overnight (OK…more like 5 years ago) in chronicling his article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing.” Its definition applies to a function you might expect from a collaborative approach to outsourcing.  For further insight, let’s apply the term in a marketing sense –envision a brand’s or even your own Facebook page. Let’s agree that part of the responsibility in posting content on a company Facebook page is to entice response thereby increasing engagement between brand and consumer.  In similar respects, crowdsourcing is a function of this strategy.  For their part, brands are turning to consumers themselves as opposed to agencies or market research firms to obtain actionable feedback about their product, service or even their latest marketing innovation. The conversations that ensue are naturally organic – authentic, less forced and insightful.  The primary difference in crowdsourcing feedback is that it’s derived from a large population of customers versus a single consumer.  This isn’t to suggest a personal engagement is trumped in favor of a larger sample, not at all. The push is simply designed to grow and foster insights from a group. Harnessing emotional connections between consumer and brand is still the primary objective. A more defined response group helps reaffirm strategic observations and key learnings. Crowdsourcing also allows a brand or business to produce a live, on-demand marketing lab. Because media messaging is produced and consumed
For many businesses, the notion of placing its brand in the hands of its consumers is a terrifying prospect – understandably so. Relinquishing control of anything, let alone multi-million $$$ brand cachet would keep even the most successful of brand management types up at night.  so rapidly today, the idea of tweaking an execution during its run is no longer taboo. Frankly, consumers expect real-time responses to their feedback.  As a discerning public, we’re conditioned Well, like it or not, I’m here to tell you it’s too late, your brand is being feasted upon by the likes of thousands and there is nothing you can do about it.  Scratch that, there actually is.  You can stop resisting and start gleaning as many insights as your customer insights staff can measure. Our future is clear, well slightly so. Technology will continue to enable consumers to collaborate more closely with brands and businesses. Brands are wiser to strike a closer relationship with their consumer base allowing them to share, inform and influence others. Consider CrowdtapA company which continues earning the accolades of ad, marketing and technology industry experts. Their mission…simple, build transparent networks that facilitateseamless and measurable communication between brand and consumer.
Consider starting or even maintaining your push into this new modern-day marketing reality with a few suggested tips designed to help you leverage a crowdsourcing strategy:
  • Identify your influencers – those well-connected mavens who frequent your stores, purchase your product, participate in your loyalty/rewards programs and post thoughtful content on your social marketing mediums. Find them fast, incentivize them often and objectively analyze their opinions.
  • Open your doors – and I don’t mean your storefront either. We’re talking about granting unfiltered access to your entire marketing portfolio. Let your influencers see the good and bad.  Your go-to-market strategies will be the better for it. By inviting consumers into your day-to-day challenges, you’re no longer alone. Innovation, customer service, brand awareness, consumer insights – they all become easier to analyze and measure because in effect you’ve given your consumers reason to engage you. They’re vested in your brand’s success as much as you are.
  • Incentivize – this best practice deserves attention all its own for good reason. Marketers know keeping audiences engaged over a lifetime requires a timely and methodical incentive approach.  Coupons, premiums/freebies, select branded content all play a part in deepening customer relationships. And remember not all likes are created equal. Customizing your recognition mechanisms to align with customer preferences goes a long way towards increasing brand affinity.
  • Plan – most marketers these days are stumped by the dilemma of retaining market share by retaining its customer base.  “I have these crowds of consumers, they like or positively tweet about my brand, what do I do now?” Collaborate with them, that’s what!  Often enough, their brand experiences will set a course for your strategic marketing direction. Don’t believe me?  Ask the brass what DEWmocracy did as a crowdsourcing marketing tool for their brand the last two years.  By the way, virtually all the branded content…yup, created by target influencers. 
  • Accelerate Measurement– there is no secret to the challenges surrounding return on marketing investment. But it doesn’t mean you have to be passive about implementing measurement controls. Pouring through IRI and other forms of sales data will only reveal so much performance insight. Appointing an influencer think-tank to support field level attainment of accurate and more importantly actionable reporting will enable marketers to better understand the impact made by their newly-formed crowdsourcing brand-building efforts.
Technology will evolve and so too will consumer tastes. But unlike years past, your consumer is your most important marketing asset. Put them to work early on in your planning cycles and it’s likely they’ll be doing more for your brand than simply ringing the cash register.
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