Today, it is easy to recognize this leading automobile manufacturer by its signature three-ellipsis logo. But in 1936, when it was starting out its motor division, Toyoda held a public competition for designing its initial logo. Not only did they pick a design from over 27,000 entries, it also led to a spin-off in the company's name. That's how Toyoda, originally an automatic looms company named after its founder Kiichiro Toyoda, became Toyota, the automobile behemoth we know today.
That's crowdsourcing. And while it may sound like a modern buzzword, the above example shows that its roots go deep in history. With the power of social media and a world that is more connected than ever, crowdsourcing is far more prevalent today. You can harness the power of a crowd to do almost anything, including naming a business, raising funds, designing a product, writing content, and much more.
So what's the catch? And why are there so many horror stories about crowdsourcing today?
It boils down to how well you execute your crowdsourcing campaign, and if you have the tools you need to manage your project correctly. After managing over 30,000 successful crowdsourced naming projects, my company and I have developed a few key strategies that can maximize the success of your next crowdsourcing project.
1. Give enough background information.
As a brand, you know what you want out of a crowdsourcing campaign better than anyone else. Always assume that the crowd knows nothing about who you are. So start from scratch. What must you tell them? What should they know about your product or service? What solution are you looking for? These questions help define the background.
For example: If you're looking to name your fashion business, you can't be vague and hope that the crowd will be able to fill in the gaps. A lot of people think they can start a branding project by just explaining their industry and the age of their audience. For example, "We are a fashion brand selling to young adults." But clearly, this isn't enough. Think of the vastly diverse brands in the market today that sell to this audience.
If you work with a crowdsourcing community to come up with a name, you cannot expect them to build your entire brand story. Similarly, you cannot raise funds through the crowd with a vague idea. The crowd won't fund a "trendy fashion brand" -- they need much, much more.
2. Avoid controversy in your brief.
A crowdsourced project starts by passing your ideas to the crowd, often in the form of a digital in-depth brief. The goal of the brief should be to eliminate any ambiguity about the campaign and state details in a clear and succinct manner.
So while writing the brief, at every stage ask if it's clear or if anything sounds vague? Read it out loud, and get feedback from others. Also, consider if anything in the brief could be controversial in terms of race, religion, sex, nationality, etc.
For example: In 2013, Durex announced the launch of its emergency delivery app named Durex SOS to deliver condoms to couples wherever they were. As part of the campaign, it asked the crowd to vote on which city they should begin this service in. The audience resorted to their usual trolling and chose the final outcome as Batman, Turkey to match to the superhero's name. But it turned out that Batman is a small conservative city, not ideal for the service Durex was trying to sell. As a result, the campaign was stopped.
To avoid such mishaps, try to visualize your campaign end-to-end from the point of view of someone who isn't related to the business. What hurdles might you run into? What do you need to avoid them? Define all such elements clearly in the brief.
3. Communicate, clarify, and correct.
Ensure that there are ample opportunities and avenues to engage with the community at multiple stages. This could mean answering their questions, clarifying your objective, providing additional information, etc.
For example, during a design project, you might decide to go another direction visually or change the tone from formal to casual. Timely communication with the community can save the campaign and help you accomplish your renewed goals. Set regular milestones around when you plan to engage with the community.
4. Don't slack on feedback.
One of my company's clients, a large hotel chain, liked a name that had been submitted by a creative. While the campaign was still underway, we gave specific and actionable feedback to the individual who had come up with the name. We told them what we liked, what worked for us, and why we liked it.
Using our feedback, the creative pitched nine other names, which too brilliantly hit the mark. None of these other names would have been possible if we didn't give feedback midway.
Give appropriate, actionable, helpful, and detailed feedback when someone submits their suggestion. In doing so, you help them be seen. This encourages them to be more invested in the project, come back with better ideas, and perhaps even remember your brand.
There's power in numbers, and crowdsourcing can help you mobilize that power. Yet by no means is it a passive process where you, as a brand, can pass the baton to the community entirely.
A crowdsourcing campaign's success depends largely on the information and background shared by you, the expectations, goals, and rules set by you, and most importantly, the support, engagement, and feedback offered by you. Without these, you could end up with a government polar research vessel named Boaty McBoatface.