Participation marketing has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years as marketers are leveraging new media to build their brands through user-generated-content at a time when budgets are constrained.
A shiny new tool in the marketing arsenal a few years back, crowdsourcing has become an integral part of the marketing mix for brand owners who want consumers to design the next product, produce a TV campaign or develop the marketing strategy for their new chewing gum brand.
This means no longer just a nod to two way conversations. It means letting consumers get involved with brands or products in whatever way that makes the most sense and adds the most value to them.
Marketing experts have observed that tighter budgets due to the economic slowdown have nudged brands to look toward smarter, cost-effective solutions to crowdsource content.
For Mondelez, effective crowdsourcing is just as much about bringing good ideas together as it is about finding the best idea possible. The business, which is developing the marketing strategy for its latest chewing gum brand Twist in partnership with teens, says it wants to use consumers as “a source of ideas as well as source of insight.”
It is a thought not lost on Coke, which is turning to fans to help it double the size of its business by 2020. The soft drinks brand is looking to launch more collaborative product innovation projects with its customers, franchisees and bottlers as part of its ambition to become a less “secretive” company. Additionally, the brand is using its 50-million strong Facebook community to identify and support ideas that make people happy, a move the business is dubbing “the next step in fan culture.”
Elsewhere, Heineken is reaching out to designers to develop marketing initiatives for its Open Your World marketing strategy in a bid to establish design as one of its key marketing pillars and set itself apart from rivals focused on sport and music sponsorship. The business set up its own crowdsourcing platform earlier this year to support the push and is using it to solve business challenges such as how to improve its sustainability communications.
While brands have been directly seeking ideas from consumers through TV and on social media profiles, it is the crowdsourcing platforms and agencies that are positioning themselves as cost-effective mediums to gather content.
Joel Cere, global director of insights and innovations at crowdsourcing site eYeka, says brands such as Unilever, P&G and Kia are increasingly turning to the business instead of using Facebook or Twitter because there’s a “greater demand for brands to develop innovate ideas faster and faster.”
He adds: “Because business cycles are accelerating, there’s pressure for brands to produce and launch new products faster and faster. For that system to work the lifeblood of brands, particularly in the FMCG category, needs to be innovation. Brands are starting to trust consumers more and but there’s still reluctance from some to adopt the openness of crowdsourcing. The smart brands realise that sooner or later their competitors are going to start talking to creative communities to get their next big idea.”
Additionally, Cere urged agencies to embrace the crowdsourcing model and drop the “old style thinking” toward client relationships.
Branding experts have acknowledged crowdsourcing is a key marketing discipline but warned marketers those communities can be hijacked and influenced in a particular direction by users.
Michael Barrett, planning director at iris, which has worked on crowdsourcing initiatives for Heineken and Adidas this year, says marketers need to recognise that participation marketing is not a one-size-fits all solution. He adds that brands need to adopt a different approach depending on if they are using crowdsourcing for product innovation, to tap into cultural behaviours or be part of the “general conversation in their consumer’s lives.”
The core truth is that every brand on the shelves, pages or screens today is a participation brand. It is just that some are smarter at showcasing how consumers engage with them. It is these smart brands who are building greater affinity and relevancy, and keeping up with how today’s consumers interact with brands, and what they expect from them.