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The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing a Marketing Campaign

Crowdsourcing is expected to be one of the top trends for marketers this year, according to the digital experts at Last Exit. The concept certainly resonates with cash strapped companies: tap an online community for ideas on how to advance a brand, or develop a product or, in many cases, both.

However as the concept gains traction thanks to success stories - Netflix developed a better prediction engine for films by offering $1 million to the public is just one (via Brandweek)  - marketers should also be aware of its dark side.

Shifting Through the Deluge

Companies, especially top brands that offer big monetary rewards such as Netflix, will find themselves with a deluge of offers that may become more work than first realized, according to Jez Frampton, CEO of Interbrand (via Forbes). "It is the ability to select and profitably execute an idea that delivers greatest value to the organization. This supports the old adage that success is 5% inspiration, and 95% perspiration."

Frampton tells of a creative director who tried crowdsourcing for a specific campaign and within 48 hours had received hundreds of ideas. "His office was flooded with ideas. So now he had an even bigger problem than not having the solution in the first place: how to sift through the offerings from the crowd."

The irony, Frampton said, was that the director and his team spent more time sorting through the input than they would have spent simply developing a good idea themselves. "At the end of the exercise they had nothing to add to their existing work on the brief. Much of the work was derivative, off-brief, superficial or just plain inappropriate."

Refining the Model

These are still early days, though, and as this model takes off supporters say such problems will be resolved. More industry resources are being devoted to crowdsourcing, which should also help. Last October, for instance, a new advertising agency, Victors & Spoils, was launched by former executives from Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, billing itself the first creative ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles.

Also companies are getting smarter about crowdsourcing in general, according to Matthew Greeley, CEO and founder, Brightidea.com (via DM News).

"Marketers need to be brought in to ensure that open innovation sites serve as an extension of the overall brand. A simple way to do this is through white-label innovation platforms, which easily enable marketers to influence the look and feel of a crowdsourcing initiative so that there is a stronger tie between the brand and innovation."

Smart companies are also applying crowdsourcing interally as well, he said. "Innovation can often come from unexpected places. Just a year ago, when one well-known consumer-facing Fortune 1,000 launched an internal innovation platform to help spur ideas within the company, one of its best actionable marketing ideas came from someone in IT."

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