Crowdsourcing: useful tool or mob rule

One of the greatest benefits of the internet is arguably the ability for many to comment and get involved in the development of a project.  Finding out the will of the people via crowdsourcing offers a whole new aspect to marketing.

Yet who can forget the film Snakes on a Plane the plot and screenplay for which was developed with the input of fans online.  Ridiculous, absurd and juvenile as it undoubtedly was, it nevertheless found a following because so many people fel that they owned a small bit of it.

The downside of the internet is that it has offered unlimited anonimity to many, and while you may think you are talking to your target audience, what’s to say that it isn’t your closest competitor mobilising its workforce, friends and family to give a completely false impression so that you head off in the wrong direction.

Finance directors may rub their hands with glee at the thought of getting a logo designed by crowdsourcing for a fraction of the cost of using a creative agency, but would this approach have delivered anything as iconic as the Virgin or Nike brands?  By bending to the will of the many will it extinguish the edgy, risky brilliance of the few?  And who does not know that anguish of trying to deliver an event where the process is ruled by the command of a committee?

hellen @ missioncontrol

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Moving on from simplex marketing

A friend sent a great email this week in response to a message they received from us.

The information we gave them prompted an internal discussion about the power of new marketing tools to create a dialogue with customers where the emphasis really was on listening to what they want and then delivering the goods.

For many organisations this concept remains an anathema.  The marketing department, guided by management and other stakeholders, creates a brand and creative concept.  They then create a customer profile based on the assumptions around which they built the branding, then the list is bought or built and the message delivered.  Then they sit and wait.  And wait. And wait.

This simplex method of marketing no longer works very well.  Not least because technology has made the customer more savvy and more time-poor.  Clients don’t have the time to listen to generic messages, nor do they have the inclination to be told what they should be doing.  They know that you have the capability to talk to them and treat them like an individual, so anything else falls short of the mark.

Seth Godin, who is arguably our favourite marketing guru, also calls this the needle and the vice principle.  For some organisations they discover exactly who their customer is and they deliver a pinpoint accurate message, not worried if the total number of people they are talking to is in the handfuls rather than the thousands.  For others they use a general ‘squeeze’ approach, surrounding their target market with a forceful argument until one or more gives in.

By contrast, the simplex approach simply misses everything because it isn’t entirely sure who it is talking to and the recipients don’t feel inclined to respond.

So where do we go from here?  A little bit of bravery is in order.  Ditch the ‘got to have a database of 1000’s’ approach and work out exactly how many key prospects you actually want to talk to then strike up an interesting conversation.