Five Problems with Crowdsourcing

1 10 2009

vegemiteCrowdsourcing is enjoying infamous popularity at the moment, partly (or should I say mostly?) due to the colossal amount of attention Kraft’s received for its launch of iSnack 2.0.

Also commonly known as fansourcing, crowdcasting, open sourcing, open innovation, crowdfunding, mass collaboration, collective customer commitment, wikinomics, tapping the wisdom of the crowds – just to name a few.

The online space has enabled  brands to access the feedback and ideas of your customer’s extremely quickly, and crowdsourcing allows you to harness this resource.

But as we have seen with the recent Kraft debacle, there are some issues to be aware of –

  1. While the promised prize of naming a new product will certainly guarantee large numbers of entries – what happens if there aren’t any good/acceptable/great ideas amongst the pile? Your brand has no control over the quality of entries.
  2. Your company becomes blinded by the success of the buzz and attention the competition has generated – what if they choose the wrong winner? Over 40,000 entries and the best they could choose was iSnack 2.0?
  3. Condorcet’s jury theorem – a political science theorem which states that if a crowd is slightly more likely to be wrong about a subject – the bigger the crowd the more likely you are to get the wrong answer (iSnack 2.0 anyone?)
  4. The public aren’t professionals or experts in branding/advertising/marketing, and while thinking outside the box can result in some innovative ideas, how can you ensure that they will choose a good one? OzSoapBox explains the danger of “allowing another IT nerd to name anything ever again”.
  5. This process still requires the guiding hand of an expert in the subject, and cannot be expected to be fool proof exercise.

Yet you can understand why brands and their agencies are loving the idea of crowdsourcing –

  • They engage the advocates of their brand effectively
  • Participants subsequently feel like they have a voice which is heard
  • You can get some great ideas… for free

Alan Wolk describes this phenomenon on his blog as a “creative gangbang 2.0”. Some say that a million heads is better than one….. but is it?!?

Does adding an’i’ before anything, make it instantly cool/trendy and very 2.0 – and as Nicole Martinelli pointed out in her post “Proof you can’t just ‘i’ anything: iSnack 2.0 Vegemite” – shouldn’t Apple be offended unofficial endorsement?

Credit to Kraft for listening to the response to its new product, and quickly dealing with the online firestorm. They released a press release yesterday afternoon, admitting that they had heard what the masses thought and were taking steps to review their choice. What I wasn’t aware of was that the original Vegemite name had also been chosen through a crowdsourcing competition of it’s own, in the 1930’s.

I feel that Kraft will be able to turn this into a positive for their new Vegemite/cheese concoction, as they are now running a public vote to decided on a replacement name and will allow them to have much more control over the choices! As Paul Harrison points out in his post “iSnack 2.0: a branding disaster? Not exactly” – name hating aside, Kraft has been extremely successful in getting the population to have interest and talk about their new product. Any publicity is good publicity right?