How Brands Are Using Crowdsourcing


Crowdsourcing, a term coined by Jeff Howe of Wired magazine in 2006, has become a popular approach for brands looking to harness the creativity of consumers. From brand identity and marketing to product innovation, brands are experimenting with different ways to engage consumers’ imaginations.  Below is an overview of three successful and not so successful examples of how brands are using crowdsourcing.

Nissan Leaf: Crowdsourcing Fuel Efficiency

The Nissan Leaf Carwings technology allows users to chase driving efficiency by connecting the Leaf’s car navigation system to mobile phones. Pooling real time information provided by users, Carwings’ Fastest Route Guidance System helps drivers take advantage of environmentally friendly driving routes. In addition, Eco-Driving and You tracks user’s fuel efficiency data and ranks drivers accordingly by region. Using this data, users are awarded medals, based on fuel efficiency, that are displayed on the Carwings user’s dashboard effectively turning eco-awareness into a social game.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese: Crowdsourcing Culinary Creativity

Famous decadent treat creator Paula Dean teamed up with Kraft to spearhead the Real Women of Philadelphia campaign promoting Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Leveraging a pre-existing online community of bakers, participants were asked to invent tasty recipes using Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Exceeding all expectations, Kraft’s campaign erupted into a network of over 30,000 bakers contributing creative recipes utilizing Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The outcome? Awesome recipes and boosted sales of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Gap: The Logo Debacle

In October 2010, Gap put crowdsourcing to the test by asking for a “more contemporary and current” logo. Upon releasing the newly selected logo, Gap was subjected to a social media storm of general dissent and unhappiness. In an effort to rebuild burned bridges, Gap used Facebook to thank consumers for the lively debate sparked by their new logo and requested submissions of additional ideas for a logo concept, which, unfortunately, caused even more debate. In the end, Gap scrapped its new logo and returned to the old.

So what lessons are to be learned from brand crowdsourcing efforts thus far? First, crowdsourcing represents an excellent opportunity for brands to pool the creative resources of the masses, engage consumers, and, by asking consumers to actively participate in building the brand, build brand loyalty. Second, it’s important to carefully consider what you chose to crowdsource. The Gap fiasco teaches us that crowdsourcing a longstanding, well-recognized, core element of your brand identity is a risky move. Finally, crowdsourcing offers your brand the opportunity to find and engage influential consumers online, as these individuals are likely following your brand’s online activity and crowdsourcing initiatives. Leverage the input of an existing influencer and their online community; they have a deep understanding of the needs of your target audience, and their words can win over more customers than yours.

Post Author

Jim Larrison

Jim Larrison is the Co-Founder & General Manager at Dynamic Signal. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s direction, product innovation, and market strategy to become a global provider of SaaS based advocate and social marketing enterprise solutions for leading Global 2K brands. Jim lives in the Chicago area with his wife and two sons. Jim is an influential movie fanatic, local politico, blogger, and photographer. On weekends, you can catch him on the sidelines of his sons' football or lacrosse games with a few Nikon cameras around his neck.