Crowd sourcing a crowd pleaser?

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Engagement is the Holy Grail for marketers and in the past year crowd sourcing has reared its head as an innovative way for brands to go about earning it. Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have both made a stab at involving their customers in product development this week but to what end?

Last year when Waitrose relaunched its MyWaitrose online members club, part of the promotional campaign, developed by Kitcatt Nohr Digitas, included an opportunity for customers to create a product that would then appear on Waitrose shelves as past of its Seriously… dessert range.

It launches next week and Waitrose has said it may become a regular feature spawning more customer-created products.

Sainsbury’s has also unveiled a crowd sourcing initiative, this one targeting kids. “I-Scream” invites seven to 14 year olds to invent a “disgustingly scary new ice-cream flavour” to be released in time for Halloween.

What fun! The mind boggles at the possibilities and I’m more than a little upset I’m too old to take part and can’t indulge my love of all things Halloween, but does it really drive brand engagement?

It’ll be a hoot for kids to concoct all manner of sugary ice cream delights, but I’m not sure it will it make their mums and dads any more likely to shop at Sainsbury’s.

Waitrose says its initiative is a way to involve consumers in the product development process, but do consumers really care? Is there a demand for it among Waitrose shoppers?

Am I more likely to buy a chocolate dessert at Waitrose because a fellow customer has developed it? Probably not. Waitrose foodie experts are more than able to come up with delicious and tempting desserts themselves.

In terms of driving engagement I’m not sure it works either. A Waitrose spokesperson told me that there were 400 entries but that doesn’t seem like that grand a response as I’m sure the MyWaitrose database is significantly higher than that.

Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever’s ice cream brand, has also launched a crowd sourcing initiative this week, one that I think will be more successful in terms of building engagement and connecting with consumers that Waitrose and Sainsbury’s efforts.

Its “Unfairly Desserted” Facebook app invites UK fans to vote on which flavour, previously only available in the US, should be brought to our fair isle. It works because it responds to an existing demand for these flavours in the UK and it gives consumers a voice in the businesses decision.

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