There is no doubt that crowdsourcing can be a great way to garner PR and hype around a brand. According to eYeka, 84% of top brands used this tactic between 2004-2014, including CPG and Food & Bev giants like Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle. However, crowdsourcing is not for every brand or initiative, and it has to be done in a specific way to yield optimal, viable results. This was illustrated last month, when the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) opened up a crowdsourcing campaign to pick the name of a new $287 million research ship. The top name sourced from the public? “Boaty McBoatface”–by a landslide; not exactly the most worthy name for UK’s most advanced polar research vessel to date.
Fortunately for the NERC, it is not legally bound to use the winning name chosen by a bunch of jokers on the internet. However, this debacle does point out some interesting challenges surrounding attempts to gather relevant consumer input.
So, how can you get genuine, high-quality insights from consumers?
1. Involve consumers from the beginning.
Today’s consumers, especially millennials, are constantly on guard against being patronized and pandered to. They value transparency and can see through a blatant ad campaign the second it’s presented to them. They want to be invited to make a difference, not just to give their input for a superficial name, much less for a cause that they don’t know much about. To get meaningful consumer feedback, it’s imperative to welcome consumers along as part of the process from start to finish–not just call on them to help pick a final name of a product or service that they’re not already emotionally invested in. Brands should give context for the campaign or new idea they’re building and try to incorporate consumers as much as they can into the process from start to finish. Unilever is emerging as a champion for this kind of consumer involvement with a new crowdsourced green innovation project, where social entrepreneurs can submit their ideas for sustainability issues raised by Unilever brands. The partnership brings more consumer input into the initial product design phases while also decreasing the major risks of a mass product launch.
2. Cultivate a transparent relationship based on trust–and push if needed.
It’s important to set the stage for a campaign with honesty and an authentic call for feedback. Blasting the audience with a “YOU could pick the name of our next product!” isn’t going to produce viable results. Instead, brands should engage consumers by letting them know that their honest feedback is greatly valued and that they could have an impact. It’s possible to quickly create a virtual relationship of trust with the right wording and timing. Then, if consumers still bring non-usable answers to the table, brands shouldn’t be afraid to call them out on it. When consumers realize that their genuine opinions are truly valued and that they have the potential to instigate change, they tend to reach further to bring their best input.
This type of co-creation between brands and consumers is here to stay. As Alexei Orlov, Global CEO of Rapp, stated in Forbes, “Co-creation is happening. Gone are the days when companies threw everything at an agency and the agency was expected to come back with a final product. Clients want to be involved in creating the end product. Often, they want the consumer, or other critical stakeholders to be involved as well.” To get ahead, brands have to be willing to embrace the consumer feedback and co-creation process. But with that said…
3. Weigh consumer feedback along with strategy.
Consumer feedback can be valuable, but it shouldn’t always be taken at face value. Human beings are notorious for saying that they want one thing and then acting differently in reality. It’s important to balance consumer feedback with the overall campaign strategy and previous campaign results. Consumer feedback should be taken seriously, but factored in as input, along with smart strategy and other trends and learning.
4. Target feedback with the power of focus.
Again, consumers don’t always know how to articulate what they want–and they can get paralyzed by having too many options. When faced with a very broad topic, they may struggle to come up with great ideas. Constraints can be quite helpful when it comes to creative thinking. Give consumers as much direction as possible without leading them to specific responses. For example, it’s easier for people to come up with an answer when given a list of names to choose from instead of generating their own from scratch, especially when they are unaware of what the campaign needs to achieve from a business standpoint. The more controlled the choices are, the easier it is to narrow in on a viable solution while still getting valuable consumer input.
In addition to narrowing the scope of the topic, it can also be helpful to narrow the pool of submissions by calling on a specific group of consumers to provide feedback for that topic. For example, AT&T’s Business Marketing team wanted to focus its efforts on profiling small and medium-sized businesses for its Business Circle site, so the team ran a crowdsourced video contest that encouraged videographers to film spotlights for SMBs. AT&T created guidelines for both the videographers and the businesses and then let the creators fill in the rest. By getting specific about who entered the contest as well as the topic, AT&T was able to get focused, high-quality submissions, effectively giving consumers a voice while simultaneously generating excellent content for the Business Circle site. Had AT&T opened up the contest to the public without any guidelines (a la the NERC), the team would have gotten a lot more junk entries to sift through.
Consumer feedback is only going to continue to gain importance in product development and marketing. The companies and brands that want to get ahead and stay relevant will need to listen carefully, strategically and with genuine curiosity.
The Garage Group helps bigcos innovate and grow like startups, with a focus on gathering smart, efficient consumer input for risk mitigation and optimal results.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Larry1732