The Side Benefits of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing has become a popular business practice. The ease of connecting with people via social media enables an organization to turn to its tribe of followers for solutions or inspiration. New product ideas, customer service issues, and marketing input are three examples of how marketers use crowdsourcing to tap the wisdom of the crowds. One of the most effective crowdsourcing campaigns in recent years has been Doritos' Crash the Super Bowl contest. For the past seven years, Frito-Lay has challenged the public to submit Doritos commercials to air during the Super Bowl. Five finalists are picked, giving the winners (often upstart ad agencies) tremendous exposure and modest financial rewards. The payoff for Doritos has been successful commercials, in part because they are vetted by the public via a fan vote for the contest prior to the Super Bowl.

A Maverick Idea for Crowdsourcing
The latest example of using crowdsourcing to meet a marketing need comes from the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Owner Mark Cuban, known for being innovative and a maverick in his own right, recently took to his blog to call on fans to help design the team's next uniform. Specifically, Cuban wants to debut new uniforms for the 2015-2016 season. Between now and May 31, he wants people to post their ideas for the next uniforms on his blog. Here are some details of Cuban's call for action:
Is Mark Cuban being a cheapskate for offering a measly $1000 to the winner... and there might not even be a winner? Some people think so, contending that if a professional designer was hired the fee would likely be six figures. But, judging by most comments posted on Cuban's blog (nearly 900 so far including many contest submissions) many Mavs fans have no problem with the conditions of the contest.

Promotion and Engagement are Side Benefits
The obvious benefit of crowdsourcing is innovation. Ideas for new value are generated, often by the very people who use or are served by the company or product. Generating multiple ideas is good; generating those ideas from users and customers is great. Another benefit can be realized from crowdsourcing as evidenced by the Dallas Mavericks example: Promotion. In this case, there is not much going on with the Dallas Mavericks these days- the team missed the NBA playoffs this season. The uniform design challenge is a way to stir interest in the team during an otherwise quiet time. 

More importantly, crowdsourcing provides a platform for engaging customers and other members of a brand community. Asking people for their input gives them a voice, making them feel valued. I read several of the comments to Cuban's post that contained contest submissions. Many people apologetically began by saying "I am not a good artist but..." yet uploaded their ideas for new uniforms. Many people included the acronym "MFFL" in their posts ("Mavericks Fan for Life"), providing a clear indication of their relationship status with the brand. For this segment of a brand's community, crowdsourcing is powerful because it makes these people feel like they are part of the organization. Their involvement is sought to innovate on the brand's behalf.

Cuban concludes his blog post about the contest by saying "let's see what you got." I'm with him- I cannot wait to see the quantity and quality of ideas submitted in the coming days. Regardless of whether the eventual next uniform design comes directly from the community submissions or indirectly influence a hired designer's work, Mark Cuban's crowdsouring call will likely be deemed a success.

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