How crowdsourcing is changing business, advertising and cause marketing

Simon Mainwaring / Advertising / 9 years ago

By now most of us are aware of various crowdsourcing campaigns being used to generate ideas, funds or support for a brand or cause. Pepsi’s Refresh Project, and Dell’s Social Innovation Competition are three well-known examples. We are now witnessing a second generation of crowdsourcing efforts in which social entrepreneurs are reinventing their industries filling the voids left by traditional businesses.

Kickstarter, for instance, is a new way for artists to fund and follow creative projects whether they are film, music, theater, events or gaming while still retaining 100% of the ownership. YouBloom is focused on emerging music cutting studios, agents and traditional marketing out of the equation to enable people to fund the music and bands they want to hear. takes a similar approach to journalism enabling readers to fund the stories they want to hear rather than accept what mainstream media is selling them. Ushahidi is an open source software platform that crowdsources information and visualizes it to enable individual to share their personal stories more easily.

These examples are part of a rising tide of crowdsourcing platforms that represent a serious challenge to top-down, traditional businesses. While these broadcast-focused businesses resist digital and social media, young, nimble companies are pouncing on marketplace opportunities the void. We have seen this changing of the guard time and again in the music, publishing, newspaper, and now marketing industries.

A fear of new technology is only part of the problem for these pre-digital and social companies. Implicit in their sluggish response is the self-delusion that they still retain full control over their brands and marketplace dynamics. Yet consumers now want to partner with companies that include them in the creative and marketing process by offering them a share of voice and stewardship of their favorite brands.

The seismic shift that has already occurred in the marketplace needs to be duplicated in corporate boardrooms. Young companies are signposts for the future and guidelines for how industry mainstays must change. If they don’t, they will become casualties of the tireless creative destruction of capitalism and will have no one to blame but themselves.

Do you think enough companies have woken up to the reality of social business? Or are you happy to see these inert companies disappear?


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  1. Avatar edward says:


    It’s certainly a well-known concept and non-profits are finally finding a way to level the playing field and get access to ideas they certainly want, from people who aren’t demanding creative awards in return.

    I am less convinced that marketers truly by into the concept. It still feels like a nice tactic that still buys press and gets interesting results, but do they really buy in to the broader theme at work, the idea of being closer to their customers?

    Not sure we are quite there yet, for every advanced and sophisticated client that’s prepared to take risks and give up some control, there’s another living in fear of the giving it up.

    1. Thanks, Edward and it’s true. Most clients are scared. But other big brands
      are leading by example. Also, I believe social media necessitates that
      brands act more responsibly if they don’t want consumer pushback. I think we
      are just at the beginning of this movement. Thanks, Simon

  2. Avatar StanleyJun says:

    Giving a bunch of unproven examples as examples doesn’t prove anything. Even the Pepsi project has no solid metrics on how it has affected sales, does it? Have you ever noticed that 99% of people who preach the power of social media and crowdsourcing are people trying to sell something that has to do with social media, or crowdsourcing?

    I guess I’m going to be left behind because I’m a dinosaur, but just I don’t think that a large percentage of consumers want to have interaction with a large group of brands on a regular basis. I know I don’t have any interest in interacting with Kraft cheese, even though I’m a big cheese eater. Same goes for laundry detergent, gasoline and on and on.

    1. Thanks Stanley and I totally understand you disagree. There are those who
      won’t and those that will interact with brands. the very fact we are
      communicating through this blog demonstrates the power of social media to
      connect people. It is already changing business and many large brands are
      involved. Obviously they have to incentivize most people to participate but
      that is nothing new. Personally I believe business will become increasingly
      social, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to agree. Thanks for the
      feedback, Simon