During the latter parts of 2009 I developed a keen interest in what was happening around the concept of crowdsourcing. The notion, which had come to widespread public attention through books such as The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki, 2005) and Crowdsourcing (Howe, 2008), was gaining favor among brands that were eager to engage consumers (and often leverage the power of Social Media). Some brands hit it out of the park, but many others spent good money on programs and campaigns that were instantly forgettable.
In the process, the term “crowdsourcing” started to become a catch-all phrase, thrown around indiscriminantly by marketers and the media. As a result, I wrote several posts on the subject here on RickLiebling.com.
These posts featured insights from several leaders in the fields of marketing & advertising and ultimately led me to create an e-Book on the subject called, Everyone Is Illuminated. I owe my gratitude to those who provided their estimable thinking on the subject and helped to make it a success.
Now, some twelve months later, it seemed to me the heat had dissipated a bit around crowdsourcing. I wasn’t seeing people referring to it on Twitter with the same frequency. Brands didn’t seem to be using it as much in high profile campaigns. Or was that just my perception and not the reality?
I decided to tap into my own crowd and once again ask experts in the field – agency types, marketers, ad industry vets – to help me survey the state of crowdsourcing. I hope you’ll find this as interesting and illuminating as last time. This year I’ve curated some of the the responses around specific questions, creating a conversation of sorts. We’ll start with asking a very basic question:
Last year at this time, it seems “crowdsource” was THE buzzword. Do you feel the heat has diminished, or is crowdsourcing still a shiny new toy?
It’s clear that crowdsourcing is now entering a new phase of its lifecycle. It’s gone through the proto-crowdsource stage where it indeed existed, but in an amorphous way, not yet labeled or codified. It’s gone through the thought-leadership stage where it was written about as a trend to watch in the future. It’s now had it’s “moment in the sun” phase where it was on the lips of agency execs, and brand managers were clamoring for it. This led to the “misuse/overuse” phase and brings us to what I think are the more interesting phases: Results focused and diverse experimentation.
Now it’s time for serious people to get down to business and see if this will really work as a concept, not just today, but long into the future. My unscientific survey of agency execs seems to indicate that crowdsourcing is indeed viable. Aaron Bateman, a copywriter at the Danish creative agency Advance and the man behind the site Agency Future sees crowdsourcing as “…approaching a level of normality now. The obvious reference is V&S ‘winning’ Harley, but less hyped outfits like Guided and The IdeaLists are quietly going about their work, refining their business model and seem here for the long haul.”
I think Aaron makes a key point here. Are the brands and agencies that jumped in (or just dipped their toes) in 2009/2010 learning from their efforts? Will their offerings or executions be refined and altered with future iterations? If so, crowdsourcing can continue to have a role.