One of the biggest recent trends in marketing is crowdsourcing. In the last decade, 85% of the top global brands have used it in some form.
In pre-digital days it was pretty much restricted to publicity stunts or involved celebrities, or both, and relied on the media gatekeepers – print and broadcast media owners – to be a vital part of the process. Media owners were the b2b crowd that a brand owner sourced, and the media provided the b2c link. Mass digital connectivity has widened the net, and crowdsourced marketing can skip the media owner involvement and still achieve phenomenal results.
Today’s digital connectivity enables all of us to publish online material, if we want to, and social media spreads the word to encourage direct access to content created personally or in-house by brands. It also means people can respond to brand owner call-outs with an array of written content, photos and videos. This means crowdsourced marketing can involve consumers voting on or even submitting ideas for marketing campaigns and advertisements. A well-known example is the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest in which consumers submitted homemade Doritos commercials for the chance of their work being shown during the American Football end-of-season Super Bowl. It ran for 10 years.
Sticking for the moment with crowdsourced marketing meaning generating editorial media coverage through newsworthy publicity stunts and appearances by celebrities, Richard Branson is very good at it. He continually makes himself a news item to promote one Virgin brand or another. The example below is a press conference for the launch of Virgin Voyages, cruise ship holidays. The media pick up on a lot of what he does, and he also uses his own social media to communicate directly with audiences.
Examples that relied on traditional media to leverage the message include the now defunct UK holiday company Club 18-30 (which catered to that age group) that used to get high levels of press media coverage by putting up risqué posters near to newspaper offices where they were bound to be seen by journalists: “Wake up at the crack of Dawn… or Lisa, or Julie” was one example. I created a case study about this back in the Noughties for the out-of-home contractor Clear Channel.
This and other similar poster executions won advertising industry awards for the creative ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, even if public outcry against indecency – ironically fuelled by the newspaper coverage they were designed to achieve – resulted in them having to be taken down early. But they had done their job.
Founder of the Ultimo lingerie brand Michelle Mone is another business person/celebrity who created her own media moments in the spotlight.
One incident, when she was still a cash-strapped startup just beginning to get the first shops to stock her products, involved hiring a dozen actors. They pretended to be plastic surgeons and demonstrated outside the Selfridge’s department store to try and prevent them stocking her cleavage-enhancing underwear.
They claimed they would be out of work if too many women decided to wear an Ultimo bra rather than have surgical implants, and blocked the road, the world famous Oxford Street. Their morning picketing was shown on lunchtime television news and Selfridge’s sold what was meant to be six months’ of stock in five hours. It’s all in her book, My Fight To The Top.
Up-to-date, and on a far more serious theme is an example from South Africa. Francois Du Preez, Digital Creative Director of Grey Advertising in South Africa presented a case study at the Crowdsourcing Week 2016 Global Conference. Dog fighting is an unsavoury and illegal activity in South Africa that causes many animals to suffer, not just the ones that do the fighting, and it’s a multi-million Rand industry when related gambling is taken in to account.
Criminals steal domestic small dogs to feed to pitbulls being trained to fight, to give them the taste. But over time a majority of the public had tired with and disengaged from the regular media coverage of tattered, battered and mutilated dogs. The ad agency created a mobile billboard that appeared to publicise a dog fight, Nitro vs Thor, with a website URL and a phone number. Social media exploded within one hour of it driving around affluent suburbs of Johannesburg. It was reported on radio news and in the next editions of newspapers. Angry people found out the website had been registered by Du Preez and some came looking for him.
The website was taken down after just three hours in which time it had received more attention than they had ever anticipated. Against this background of anger they ‘came clean’ that the advertised dog fight was a stunt and then got even more media exposure for supposedly trivialising the distasteful and illegal activity. The issue was suddenly important once again to many people.
The amount of media space and broadcast airtime costed as media advertising exposure was valued at Rand 1.7 million. The mobile ad had cost Rand 7,000, allowing a claimed ROI factor of 240 times the initial outlay. But not only had massive media coverage been achieved for such a tiny sum, the mobilisation of the crowd had made it so much more effective than if a real budget had been used with a regular “this is bad, let’s all help put a stop to it” style of message.
In the digital-era of personal connectivity, newcomer craft beer brewer Brewdog claimed to be worth £1.8bn in January this year (based on some corporate investment deals), and has vowed to never spend a penny on paid-for advertising. Though they happily hired and branded a helicopter to make a video of parachuting “fat cats” (stuffed toys, I hasten to add) in to the City of London to generate news coverage of the fact that they were crowdfunding. They went on to raise their first £5m through equity crowdfunding without the services of any expensive “fat cat” investment advisers.
A current example is the Royal Mail which has installed four musical post boxes in the run-up to Christmas. When cards and letters are posted they trigger a sensor that plays a loop of snippets from Christmas tunes and reindeer sleigh bells.
There is just one in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. The one in England is in Greenwich, the historic area on the south side of London’s River Thames and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, very popular with tourists.
It has been mentioned in social media by many people and organsations including numerous bloggers and local businesses in the area, reported in local and national newspapers, on BBC tv news and by the advertising industry platform Campaign.
The Royal Mail are using the added media coverage to raise awareness of this year’s last posting dates. There, I’ve written about it and you’ve read about it, it works.
Crowdsourced marketing offers huge benefits for businesses. Crowdsourcing saves on marketing costs because either consumers are happy to submit their ideas for free in exchange for seeing them used in the marketplace, or because bloggers, journalists and editors fall over themselves to create engaging content featuring stunts and/or celebrities to entertain their audiences. Plus these days there is direct consumer-2-consumer connectivity. It’s a great way to get affordable coverage of a crowdfunding project.