There are few things as fearsome as the empowered consumer. The unbridled weight of the modern, enlightened individual has pushed previously dominant companies to shift their priorities and focus on things like environmental concerns, fair labor practices, and social justice as a whole.
This hasn’t simply been businesses adapting to a changing marketing landscape, either. The reward of listening to empowered consumers — along with the dangers of snubbing them — have led many clever companies to focus their attention on directing rather than fighting this momentum.
Here are some of the most successful examples of crowdsourcing campaigns and activities that companies have created in recent years in order to tap into the considerable weight of the “everyman.”
Why Crowdsourcing Works
Before launching into the specific examples, it’s helpful to briefly consider what crowdsourcing is and why it’s so effective. Crowdsourcing, in its most basic essence, is the action of soliciting services, ideas, and content from a large group of people — especially in an online format.
Crowdsourcing allows profit and nonprofit organizations alike to tap into a hivemind of creativity that helps directs their efforts towards the trends of their larger customer community. This allows companies to identify and integrate consumers’ interests — a key element to the modern marketing tactic of personalizing the customer experience — and can help to shape an organization’s overall marketing efforts.
Along with helping guide the company itself, crowdsourcing invites the consumer to engage and dialogue with the company on a peer to peer basis. This form of conversational commerce has also been a growing marketing trend for quite some time now and shows no sign of slowing in the near future.
Crowdsourcing can also be effective on both a small and a large scale. While many of the most popular crowdsourcing campaigns come from larger companies like Doritos and McDonald’s, the ability to tap into an online community of support and creativity has enabled even smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to overcome many shortcomings and issues they may face.
The technology-focused element of most crowdsourcing efforts has also enabled businesses that are inherently at a disadvantage, such as female or minority-owned companies, to tap into the limitless energy of their consumer base for inspiration, support, content creation, and so on.
While it’s highly effective, crowdsourcing is also anything but formulaic. Often companies will go far afield in order to find exciting new ways to attract attention and encourage engagement from consumers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in an era where the bustle and volume of the online community can make it extremely difficult to break through the white noise.
With that said, here are some varied yet fascinatingly effective examples of crowdsourcing during the era of technologically savvy, empowered consumers.
Art For the Environment
The outdoor apparel company Patagonia made crowdsourcing waves several years ago when it teamed up with the Creative Action Network and the Canary Project. The trifecta put together a crowdsourcing campaign that invited artists to submit poster designs that encouraged younger voters to get to the polls in the upcoming election.
The designs centered on the concept “Vote the Environment,” a message that all three organizations could readily get behind. The designs were made available for purchase, and a solid portion of the proceeds went towards the nonpartisan organization HeadCount, which focused on the further education of voters.
Of course, Patagonia didn’t mind the extra attention it received throughout the event, either. The company has a history of being environmentally active and it likely didn’t mind the double benefit of spreading awareness of the pro-environment message… and their own brand as well.
Finding Your Waze
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. At least, that’s what the founders of the traffic app Waze thought. In this case, their entire company was set up to operate on the premise of crowdsourcing live traffic information — not for a single campaign, but in this case on a daily, hourly, and even a minute-by-minute basis.
Through continual updates regarding traffic jams and accidents delivered by their over 115 million users, Waze is still able to deliver updated routes that help its users get to their destination in the fastest possible way.
While many of the examples on this list focus on established companies using crowdsourcing as a marketing or an outreach tool, in the case of Waze, the cleverness comes from the simple fact that the business itself depends on the continual input of information from its empowered consumers, and that dependence has led to an impressive level of success.
Image Source: Pexels
The White Cup Is Your Canvas
A few years back Starbucks asked its loyal fanbase to get involved in a contest involving their classic white cups. The campaign invited customers to decorate their white coffee canvases with their own customizable artwork. Once this was done, they had them submit their creations online using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest.
The contest received thousands of entries, many of which were as elaborate as an adult coloring page, with the designs spreading out around the cup from top to bottom. While it was a fun concept, though, the real winner was Starbucks, which benefited from countless likes, shares, and comments across the social media world, all of which came at no cost to the company itself.
An Online Party
In 2019 the world was blown away by the Box Office success of Disney and Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame. The highly anticipated film was so popular that even after the movie had left theaters, companies looked for ways to capitalize on the fan-based hysteria.
One of the most interesting was a global viewing party for the superhero flick put on by Marvel Studios and the entertainment streaming site Vudu. Kicking off at 6 p.m Pacific Time, the event brought countless viewers together to experience the film together along with Marvel president Kevin Feige and executive producer Trinh Tran.
The crowdsourced event led many fans to purchase or rent the film in its newly released digital format, even though they planned on getting the physical copy as well, and it brought a great deal of attention to Vudu as the host of the party.
Crowdsourcing, the Way of the Future
Whether you’re building a burger online, promoting your clothing brand, drawing on your coffee cup, or updating traffic info to the cloud, there are many different ways that consumers have gotten involved in the crowdsourcing game over the past few years.
This modern trend towards intimate involvement and engagement has allowed companies to gather information, increase customer relationship management, and keep their marketing messages honed in a continually shifting world.
While the online world may be ideal for avoiding the crowds, it’s also the perfect place for companies to engage with their consumers en masse. They can solicit their input, garner their creativity, and allow them to take part in the process of literally marketing a company’s goods and services to themselves.
With technology — and the internet, in particular — set to continue its dominant run far into the future, chances are crowdsourcing campaigns are only getting started, and it will be fascinating to see what businesses great and small come up with next.