Crowdsourcing – The New Marketing Department

Who needs a marketing department when fans can be outsourced for free (ish)? Major brands are finding that the most valuable insight comes directly from their customers and therefore are reaching out accordingly. This outreach process, also known as crowdsourcing, enlists the help of the consumer to accomplish a set of goals for a given organization. Big brands are realizing that they can benefit enormously from utilizing the huge pools of talent and imagination that exist within their customer base, rather than limiting themselves to professionals.One way in which crowdsourcing can work is simply by reaching out to an existing community of fans or enthusiasts to find new ideas. Brands potentially have access to thousands of devoted and creative fans, ensuring a much richer variety of ideas with profits at a minimal cost.

There’s a good chance that a company’s next big idea could be hidden within the people who are most engaged with its product and brand. More companies are turning to the crowd for ideas on all aspects of their business, implementing creative campaigns in which to get their fans involved. Several big household brands have found great success in crowdsourcing their fan base. Here are a few recent examples:



Papa John’s is using Facebook to find their next specialty pizza. The Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge tasks Facebook fans with creating the winning recipe for the company’s next specialty pizza. The top three submissions — as selected by “Papa” John Schnatter and corporate taste testers — will be integrated into the Papa John’s menu and sold in stores from August 2 to August 29. The applicant with the highest-selling pizza receives quite a nice prize – 1% of pizza sales post challenge (up to $10,000), pizza for life and a guest appearance in a Papa John’s TV commercial. Papa John’s is quite savvy when it comes to incorporating social media into the campaign. Since the contest is housed within Facebook, sharing is essentially baked in throughout, increasing the number of eyeballs on the campaign.


Pepsi Co. brand Mountain Dew has been using its social media fan base to create, brand and market three experimental new flavors with the public’s involvement at all levels of the process. Mountain Dew’s “Dewmocracy” – a crowdsourced/community collaboration, is infused with two crucial elements for social-media success—respect for, and collaboration with, fans of the brand, coupled with an ongoing commitment to social engagement.

According to Brett O’Brien, Mountain Dew’s marketing director, PepsiCo looks at social media as the best way to get direct dialog with their fans and for the company to hear from those fans without filters. “It’s been great for us to have this really unique dialogue that we normally wouldn’t have,” he said. “It really has opened our eyes up.

Now that the flavors are available for purchase, each Flavor Nation will aggressively fight for their respective flavors and solicit friends, family, fans and followers to vote for their Dew creation. Each Nation/finalist has its own Facebook Page and Twitter account that they’ll use to help get the word out on their flavor and encourage social media sharing and flavor voting.


In celebration of its 60th birthday back in February, Dunkin Donuts recently launched a contest where fans could create their own custom virtual donut — with imagination and available ingredients being the only limitations. Fans used a custom donut-building website to create donuts from scratch by selecting its shape, dough, filling, frosting and toppings. Final creations were sharable via social media sites, increasing buzz and visibility to the campaign. The company is hoping that this year’s campaign is as successful as a similar one marketed in 2009 which saw a “healthy response in donut sales during the promotion period” according to David Tryder, manager of interactive and relationship marketing at Dunkin Donuts. In addition to increased sales, the “create your own donut” contest saw the following lift:

– 130,000 “Create Dunkin’s Next Donut” donut submissions
– 218,000 total donuts created
– 25,000 donuts posted to Facebook
– 174,000 votes
– 269,000 more donuts created after the promotion was over

“That last stat is especially interesting and proves that even without the promise of a big prize, the company has hit on something that its customers absolutely love to do.”

These are just some examples of how brands are listening to/valuing their consumers and utilizing their feedback. Brands like Starbucks, Pepsi, and Dominos amongst others have seen great success using crowdsource marketing. A participatory marketing model has proved to be a low-cost, effective platform, especially for brands that cater to a socially savvy market. Social networks have become the default location for a collaborative community – a vast pool of passionate resources full of insight and ideas just waiting to be heard.


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