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Designing the Crowdsourcing Experience for Marketing Managers
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Designing the Crowdsourcing Experience for Marketing Managers

Editor's Note: The following post comes from Yannig Roth, a Ph.D. student and Research Fellow at eYeka. In his last post, Yannig wrote about how top brands are using crowdsouring to their advantage. This time, Yannig writes in with advice for those looking to apply crowdsourcing to marketing -- a quickly-emerging field that sits somewhere between open innovation and creative crowdsourcing. Read on to find out more!

Crowdsourcing has proven to be a highly valuable tool for innovation. Today, it is an integral part of most Open Innovation strategies, as it allows getting fast access to a global knowledge pool. But crowdsourcing is also increasingly used by marketing managers for strategic matters. Designing a seamless crowdsourcing experience for them is crucial. This post explains what the crowdsourcing experience can look like, and shares some of the best practices to follow.

Identify your business issue

Every crowdsourcing initiative starts with a specific problem: the need for new product ideas, for design ideas, for insights or user-generated content… there are various marketing-related problems that can be addressed with creative crowdsourcing. Companies turn to creative consumers because they are looking for fresh ideas to break a strategic impasse, and this has to be thoroughly identified: What is the context? How did the situation end-up in such a deadlock? How can individuals from the crowd help to solve this issue? How will the output from the contest be used?

An example of a formalized document: eYeka’s Client Brief.

All these questions are important to be asked before the project, not only to make sure that crowdsourcing is (or is not) a good solution to solve the problem, but also to design the creative challenge in general. All this information should be written on a document that describes your brand challenge and the contest objectives. Once you have formalized your objectives and everyone’s expectations are aligned, the business problem can be translated into a creative brief for the crowd.

Set up the creative contest

After the crucial step of identifying the marketing problem, there is the setup of the actual contest. This is where the magic happens. A formal business issue (for example: How do I position my innovative snack for children among Chinese consumers while I have to launch it in 6 months?) gets translated into a creative challenge (something like: Create an engaging ad that shows how ingenious you are to grab a snack at any time).

This phase is very tricky because stimulating the crowd’s creativity is very difficult. You never know whether your brief will pick peoples’ attention and get them to create for you, you never know how good the crowd’s creations will be, neither how relevant or insightful these will be for you. But specialized crowdsourcing intermediaries (Atizo, eYeka, Hyve, Jovoto, Poptent, Zooppa and the like) have the knowledge and experience to write such briefs that stimulate the crowd’s creativity. And you should trust their expertise. Once the creative brief is written, pay attention to the terms & conditions and to the contest design.

The creative brief (or community brief), the terms & conditions and the contest design are three essential components of any crowdsourcing project.

Terms and conditions are crucial in crowdsourcing contests. As Johann Füller, CEO of Hyve and Assistant Professor at the University of Innsbruck (Austria), highlighted in a recent blog post, perceived unfairness is one of the risks of crowdsourcing. Terms and Conditions have to be fair and clearly expressed in order to get the crowd’s trust. Another crucial step of the setup phase is to design an attractive page or website for your contest, this will make the crowd feel good and inspire creativity. Once all these steps are completed, you project can go live!

Follow the contest

Submissions usually pour in just before a contest ends. This seems obvious, but it also causes a lot of stress to project managers at the beginning and the middle of it!

A well-known problem of crowdsourcing is that, if your project generates attention among the crowd, you can be overwhelmed by the response. Especially for idea contests or engagement platforms, like Dell’s Ideastorm or Starbucks’ MyStarbucksIdea, a high amount of submissions can rapidly become unmanageable. This problem is even worse when there is low involvement on the company side, which means that ideas don’t get screened and evaluated as they come in. One solution is to let the crowd decide by itself which submissions are the best, by which you are relying on the so-called “wisdom of the crowd”. Another solution is to have a well-designed dashboard that allows you to browse through all ideas and to sort them meaningfully.

The above illustration shows an example of such a dashboard (it is drawn from the Shopping of the Future project, you can see the resulting white paper here). This is typically what you can see at the end of your crowdsourcing project if it has been successful. You have multiple entries coming from all over the world, all answering your creative brief in a different way. If the user interface allows it (like above), you can even sort them by level of quality, relevance, originality or narrative. You might also be able to make shortlists and selections based on individual criteria, or even to share the whole content with friends.

These functionalities vary depending on which company you work with. Open Innovation expert Frank Piller recently wrote an interesting blog posts about companies that offer idea contests as a service, which means that experienced users can create idea contests very easily and at low cost, with a varying amount of functionalities. But even though these platforms are interesting to start an idea contest, they don’t provide the precious help needed to ask the right question, define the rules and legal terms, get a feel for incentives, reach potential participants etc.

Pick the best entries and provide feedback

If your contest turned out to be successful (congratulations!), you’ll still have to pick the winners, reward them and share some feedback. It is increasingly common knowledge that feedback is absolutely crucial in co-creation, and you should acknowledge this by providing feedback to those who stewed over your creative challenge. Because once you have picked winners, this means that there are also a lot of disappointed participants who want to know why they didn’t win.

Once you have chosen and rewarded the winning submissions, you acquire intellectual property rights. But notice that participants can always refuse, so make sure that your incentives are interesting enough.

Even if your contest is highly strategic and you don’t want to reveal the winning ideas (your competitors might pick them up), you have to say why you chose them. This is what happened when the Oreo marketing team announced the winners of the Introducing Mini Oreos contest. The contest’s business objective was to gather consumer-rooted ideas about how to position the Mini Oreo brand – typically not what you would like to reveal to the world. By providing a warm note you to the community, the marketing team thanked 4 winners and 512 non-winners for their participation, and everyone should be able to do that!

To wrap it up, we would like to share what a perfect creative crowdsourcing contest looks like for creatives: a fun, creative brief from an interesting brand that makes cool products; an open contest where everyone can participate even with basic creative skills; a decent amount of prize money up for grabs; and honest feedback from the brand when announcing the winners. You just have to dedicate some effort and respect the crowd; the rest will follow. We hope that you’re now a little wiser to handle the crowd!

Yannig is a Ph.D. student at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France) and Research Fellow at eYeka. His main research interests are creative crowdsourcing, marketing, innovation and co-creation. Yannig also blogs at

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  • Jessica Day Jessica Day Aug 09, 2012 05:24 pm GMT

    I like that this encourages marketers to think more strategically about all crowdsourcing efforts. One of the benefits of crowdsourcing is that obviously helps to share your brand or product or ideas effectively with the opportunity to go totally viral, but that means it is all the more important that you make that a smooth, unified experience as well. This break down of the steps is a nice timeline for crowdsourcing campaigns.

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