OPINION9 November 2009

Crowdsourcing... or just crowd pleasing?

Levi Roots hasn’t done badly for himself. Since his appearance on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2007, his Reggae Reggae Sauce is available in all the big supermarkets as well as Wetherspoons pubs, and he’s got his own TV show on Caribbean cooking.

But the dragons cheated a bit on this one. The point of Dragons’ Den is supposed to be to pick out people with great business ideas and potential. All they did with Levi Roots was cash in on the primetime TV exposure. However tasty it is, would Reggae Reggae Sauce have made it on to the supermarket shelves without Levi’s TV appearance? Mediawatch doubts it.

It’s a similar story when you look at high profile examples of crowdsourcing. Millward Brown’s Nigel Hollis (from whom we admit to having half-stolen the title of this post) has been blogging about the technique entering the mainstream. But how often is it just an attention-grabbing gimmick? Crowdsourcing exercises so often involve high-profile calls for action that it can be difficult to tease apart the effect of the publicity you get when you loudly ask for the public’s views, and the value of the ideas that they actually come up with (compared to what ad agency creatives might have managed).

Unilever has ditched its ad agency of many years and turned to crowdsourcing site Ideabounty to find the idea for its next Peperami ad. More than 1000 entries have been received, and here we are writing about it before the idea has even been decided on. Of course, engaging the public is all part and parcel of how crowdsourcing works, but Mediawatch wonders whether, when the brands involved have enough clout to rely on getting some coverage and attention, the search for ideas is really an afterthought.

Most suspicious of all is the tale of Kraft’s new Vegemite variant, Cheesybite, which started out with the silly name of iSnack2.0 – supposedly crowdsourced from entries to a competition. The name was then ditched with much fanfare and replaced by Cheesybite, which came out of an online vote.

Since nobody in their right minds would call a product iSnack2.0 unless they were joking, we can take this to be a very successful publicity exercise. In a conversation between some Australians (the main – or perhaps only – target market for Vegemite) overheard by Mediawatch this weekend, there was much talk of Cheesybite, focusing mostly on the naming controversy rather than the merits of the product itself. Could Vegemite’s marketing team have come up with as good a name by themselves without all this hoo hah? Of course they could have. But (as the Google Trends results for Vegemite testify) they wouldn’t have got anything like as much publicity.

@RESEARCH LIVE

4 Comments

14 years ago

We agree totally about Vegemite and isnack2.0 and talked about it here: http://www.gottaquirk.com/2009/10/02/whats-good-for-vegemite-isnt-good-for-crowdsourcing/ Basically a clever campaign - even if the implications aren't so great for Crowdsourcing - assuming people don't see through it that is. There can only be so many purely publicity driven campaigns..

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14 years ago

Sorry, but I can't believe people are still trotting out the the "any publicity is good publicity" cliche in relation to Vegemite iSnack 2.0. It was not a "successful publicity exercise" - it was a genuine fiasco. Insiders at Kraft and its agencies spoke at the time of a trainwreck and a total lack of insight into just how lame this name would be considered. Clearly no proper research was undertaken to test consumer response to the name. Just to set the record straight, the product was already launched and had sold 1 million jars under the title "Name me..." in anticipation of the results of the competition, which had generated considerable publicity - all the publicity it needed. What Kraft did NOT need was a reason for people NOT to go and buy a second jar, and that's effectively what iSnack 2.0 did. There will be no consumer rush to buy ChesyBite when the re-packaged product appears. So it what sense could this possibly be called a "successful exercise"? Consumer sentiment towards Kraft and, more importantly, the Vegemite parent brand which is a true Australian cultural icon, suffered significantly. Many consumers - not to mention consumer marketers, researchers and comms agencies - now think far less of Kraft in Australia as a consequence. This event has further deepened the suspicions and concerns held by many Australian consumers about a US parent owning - and mishandling - such an iconic Australian brand. And future Vegemite brand extensions will automatically trigger recall of the stupid iSnack decision. Post hoc rationalisation about how many column inches the story got can't paper over the vehemently negative sentiment it generated.

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14 years ago

The crowdsourcing debate seems to be ignoring a couple of points. 1) With the real time web, value can be created both from the process (engagement) and the final product (creative result). 2) Agencies seem to be once again missing the opportunity to embrace a new model in its early stages. More on this in a recent article on DigitalPopuli, would love your thoughts - http://digitalpopuli.com/crowdsourcing/whats-being-ignored-in-the-crowdsourcing-debate/

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14 years ago

levi roots stole tony baile'y idea of the sauce he is a conman and a thief

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