As more and more major brands have developed their communities within social networks, Crowdsourcing has become one of the most engaging and innovative tools in digital marketing over the past few years, enabling brands to realise the potential for their fans’ input into the product development process. 

In most cases where fans within social media are particularly passionate about a brand and its products, there will be a clear desire to become part of the product itself and have input as a group. Historically, this wasn’t easy to achieve through traditional marketing channels, but the openness and flexibility of social networks such as Facebook and other digital environments (i.e. campaign sites) have provided brands with an opportunity that many of them have taken.

There are now many great examples of how online communities can be used as a tool for crowdsourcing during the product development process; I’ve outlined a few of my personal favourites below, some old and some new:

 

Mountain Dew’s “Dewmocracy”

Dewmocracy

Arguably the mother of all crowdsourcing campaigns, Mountain Dew produced a campaign in the US that spanned the whole of the product development process.

Mountain Dew kicked off their “Dewmocracy” campaign in 2007, which aimed to “create the next Mountain Dew product by harnessing the collective intelligence of the brand’s passionate fans”. The exercise asked fans to choose the product’s flavour, colour, name and graphics – as many as one million fans participated in the process – with the result being Voltage, a citrus charged beverage that was released in 2009. Mountain Dew then revealed “Dewmocracy 2” following the launch of Voltage, this time aiming to provide another outlet for fans to express their passion for the brand, whilst adding more user control to take the crowdsourced elements of the result to a new level.

The top three flavours were chosen and testers were organised into product teams called Flavour Nations — one for each flavour. Each team was tasked with the responsibility of naming its flavour, designing a label, selecting an agency and supervising the marketing and advertising plans for the flavour launch. On April 19, 2010, the three new flavours — Distortion, Typhoon and White Out — hit retail shelves. At this point, the teams were then tasked with using their social capital to solicit votes for their flavour.  More than two million votes later, White Out is now a permanent part of the Mountain Dew product line.

 

Citroen C1 Connexion

Citroen C1 Connexion

Citroen UK recently launched a campaign on Facebook to crowdsource the design of its new Citroen C1 Connexion.

Citroen’s fans are asked to submit their own personalised design through an application that allows them to choose their preferences for the following elements:

  • The number of doors (three or five)
  • The colours of the body, detail and dashboard
  • Other features of the car (Bluetooth, Sat-Nav and alloy wheels)

Once the users have made their selections, their design counts as a vote; the most popular combination will be incorporated into the C1 Connexion’s final design. The users are also entered into a prize draw to win a Citroen C1 bearing their chosen design should prove to be the most popular.

The application offers users the opportunity to have a personalised or anonymous experience – if the user opts for a personalised view, elements of their Facebook presence (like the profile pictures of friends) are then incorporated into the application and become visible to them during the design process.

The activity concludes with a thank you to the user and a call to action for them to share their design with friends on Facebook, which provides additional visibility for the campaign. Overall, this is a great way of increasing the Citroen fans’ affiliation and affinity with the brand and its products.

 

Ben and Jerry’s “Do The World A Flavor”

Do the world a flavor

In  2009, Ben and Jerry’s launched the “Do The World A Flavor” campaign to crowdsource a new flavour of ice-cream, that would be thought up entirely by online consumers. The activity also aimed to promote the fair trade aspect of all its ingredients, emphasising Ben and Jerry’s philosophy when it comes to how it makes its product.

To do this, users could pick from a selection of fair trade ingredients (which, when hovered over, revealed sourcing details) and then submit their ice-cream concoction, whilst the web application also offered them the chance to share their suggested flavour with their friends on Facebook. As well as placing the winning combination of ingredients into production, Ben and Jerry’s also gave users the chance to win a trip to a fair trade cocoa farm in the Dominican Republic.

The winning combination – named Fairly Nuts – was sent out to stores in March 2010 and exceeded all of its marketing goals using below the line support from PR, social media and other digital channels. The campaign also succeeded in accumulating over 100,000 votes worldwide, proving that this crowdsourcing mechanism was one of the most effective and engaging across online communities at the time.

Crowdsourcing of course can’t always be applied to every aspect of a product’s development, but when it can it is an extremely effective tool. Whether it’s managed by an in-house digital marketing department, or their commissioned digital PR or social media agency, it’s always helpful to remember that involving a brand’s fans in the process of creating the products that they love (and have chosen to publicly affiliate themselves with) will go a long way towards maximising the results of a campaign.

Please feel free to share any other examples you can think of in the comments; it’s always great to hear about the ones that have been missed!