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What makes a professional a professional—holding a position and being paid for work performed? And what does it mean to get paid? You may think the answer is simple—getting a paycheck of course. How about an amateur—what makes one an amateur? Doing something for free and not getting paid? What if all this was flipped on its head? When it comes to using crowdsourcing as a marketing tool, it’s arguable that amateur creative contributions facilitate engagement and provide a fresh perspective.
Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile conducted a study on the impact that compensation has on creativity. A group of professional artists produced both commissioned (paid) and non-commissioned (unpaid) work—the resulting art was judged by a panel of art critics who had no knowledge of the study. The research team said “The commissioned works were rated as significantly less creative than the non-commissioned works, yet they were not rated as different in technical quality. Moreover, the artists reported feeling significantly more constrained when doing commissioned work than when doing non-commissioned work.”
What these and other recent studies conclude is that not only are people willing to perform tasks without compensation, but the quality of the output is often superior to those who are paid to do the task. With this knowledge marketers can build campaigns that take advantage of these findings, achieving activation and engagement of consumers. The formula to do this is actually quite simple; first you must identify a passionate group of like-minded individuals. Remember it’s intrinsic motivation that’s going to yield the results we’re after. Once the community is identified you’ll need to find a creative task for them to perform. The task can be as simple as designing a t-shirt or poster. With these basic elements you can achieve surprising results when the joy of the task becomes the reward. Consumer participation is here to stay and it’s now up to brands to find meaningful ways to get them involved.
A great example of a campaign that elegantly combines all the pieces mentioned above is Mountain Dew’s Green Label Art campaign. 35 skate shops across the country were invited to design a can. Mountain Dew then asked their fans to vote and decide which can to distribute in stores nationwide. Mountain Dew executed this campaign to perfection by understanding which of its fans have the passion and creative skills to design the can and then asking the community to vote for their favorite.
There are a billion connected people in this world with varying degrees of motivations and desires. Clearly there’s no shortage of amateur resources, no shortage of desire and no shortage of creative tools. The challenge is building campaigns that combine all these pieces to achieve meaningful results. Fortunately the tools to activate and engage consumers around a creative task are now available and they’re free. Take a good look at your consumers and fans then find ways to get them involved at a deeper level; not only will they jump at the chance they wont expect a paycheck.
By Richard Spiegel
Richard Spiegel is CEO of CrowdTogether, a crowdsourcing platform designed to build customer loyalty and brand via creative competition.