Crowdsourcing, a source of brand strength

Crowdsourcing, a source of brand strength

Did you know that you could create your own flavour of chips and win a handsome cash-prize? Or create your own animated advertisement that will be telecast on national television? Or better still, complete an advertisement that features those adorable aliens, the Zoozoos? Welcome to crowdsourcing; wherein various brands operating across industries involve their target audience right from product design to advertisement campaigns. And more recently, be it fast moving consumer goods, telecom or even technology, the mantra is a contest that engages the consumer with their brand.   Frito-Lay rolled out a consumer engagement contest – ‘Give us your Dillicious Flavour’, for its potato chip brand Lays. This is an ongoing exercise in identifying the brand’s next flavour from the consumers themselves. By May 2010, a winner will be chosen who walks away with a cash-prize of Rs. 50 lakh in addition to a one per cent from sales turnover. ‘Welcome to your Studio’, a design contest launched by the technology major DELL in October, 2009 generated favourable response with the winners taking home prize money and brand merchandise.

The Create concept gave us a huge opportunity to connect with the audiences directly and this is required in today’s competitive and crowded market place to engage with the consumer and keep the brand alive,” says Gurinder Singh Sandhu, head, marketing, Tata DoCoMo.

The latest entrants in this space are the telecom brands. The recently launched Tata DoCoMo conducted an animation contest titled ‘Create’ in 2009 which called for people to create a short 2D animation clip under 60 seconds using the brand’s logo and signature tune. Apart from a cash-prize tag of Rs. 1 lakh, the three winning entries are currently being aired on national television.  Rival brand, Vodafone, is not far behind in their strategy. Given the success of their recent ‘Zoozoo’ campaign, they launched a ‘Complete the Zoozoo story’ contest which makes use of social networking site Facebook as a platform. Contestants can watch snippets of unreleased Zoozoo television commercials and create their own Zoozoo stories to compete.

Closer to the consumer

While the modus operandi of each brand may vary, the objective remains the same: Endear yourself to your target audience and win their loyalty. With consumer acquisition costs spiraling, brands in competing spaces are doing all that they can to retain their consumer base. This brings us to the question, is an exercise in consumer engagement worth the effort? “The Create concept gave us a huge opportunity to connect with the audiences directly and this is required in today’s competitive and crowded market place to engage with the consumer and keep the brand alive,” says Gurinder Singh Sandhu, head, marketing, Tata DoCoMo. He adds that Tata DoCoMo adopted the route as it felt that structuring a two-way communication architecture was important. In the same breath, he admits that this exercise was not so much about the costs as it was about consumer engagement. “We did not intend to initiate the concept from a cost perspective. Our brand premise is very simple, to create an engagement model and give consumers something that they aspire to own,” he states. Encouraged by number of responses they received to the Create campaign, the brand has future plans of extending the concept to music and photography as well.

A trip down memory lane

Crowdsourcing beyond contests is something that superbrands have managed to achieve. “When I close my eyes, I can conjure up my association with a brand such as Maggi,” says Sharmista Nagarkatti, group account manager, TBWA, a global advertising agency. And this is exactly the nostalgic sentiment Maggi Noodles has made use of for its 25th anniversary celebratory campaign. Their ‘Me and Meri Maggi’ initiative urged consumers to share their stories and experiences which would be featured on the brand’s packaging and national media campaigns. While the success of such an initiative is hard to measure in terms of sales numbers, the campaign has certainly struck a chord with the masses and gives it a better brand recall. “I am pretty sure the stories are genuine,” says Nagarkatti. Speaking of one of the stories featured as part of the campaign, Nagarkatti vouches for its authenticity. “I myself witnessed episodes from 26/07/’05 where I saw people distribute cups of Maggi Noodles to those who were stranded in the floods,” says the advertising professional who is familiar with gimmicks staged by brands. She is also of the opinion that crowdsourcing perhaps works better for superbrands as the process of sending entries is natural as opposed to forced.

While the debate on emerging brands versus superbrands making best use of crowdsourcing ranges on, it is clear that the concept is here to stay. Establishing an active interaction channel with the consumer is one way to ensure brand loyalty. Austin D’souza idea manager at advertising agency, Euro RSCG, who is also a budding musician signs off saying, “As a musician on stage, there’s one clear mantra. Be one with the audience and interact with them. Guess that also holds true for brands today.”