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Innovation by crowdsourcing | eat this digital pudding

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Did you know that improvement on the early detection of cancer is achieved through Artificial Intelligence algorithms which learn from millions of evaluations by gaming individuals? Or, did you know that this new brilliant video-add from NESTLE or Coca Cola may not come from this world leading marcom agency but from a creative designer who just won a design contest on eYeka? Instead of a 5-year development cycle, a community of car-experts is able to design and build a car from scratch within a 3 months period.

Seems quite innovative to me. And these are just a few crowdsourcing examples that made me very enthusiastic to write this article. I recently read there are already over 9000 crowdsource communities. Even while this may seem a lot, according to McKinsey Global Institute, 80% of the potential market is not developed yet. I find that the honeycomb overview of Crowd Companies is pretty useful. Here you get an idea of all the areas in which crowdsourcing and co-creation currently takes place. Of course we all know Uber and Airbnb. But here you also find less known examples like BlaBlacar which provides a carpool kind of Mobility Service. Just check out a few of these companies listed. You might be amazed. At least I was.

Digital marketing, from customer surveys to multiple crowdsourcing services

With a history as a marketing professional in Vodafone, I was involved in market researches attained through mass (online) customer surveys and provided through large international marcom agencies. I believe this service may even be one of the first predecessors of the current crowdsourcing. These days in marketing there is a refreshing sea of choice when it comes to crowdsourcing options, ranging from product innovation and development, worldwide product testing, brand design, campaign development and many more. Next to my increased interest in crowdsourcing, I recently also started my own company in strategy, (digital) marketing & sales. A perfect moment for the proof of the pudding.

My crowdsourced contest, worth the money?

As I needed a new logo I started a logo design contest using 99designs. Result, a stunning total of 208 logo designs from 25 different designers achieved within 9 days. Price 9. You can imagine, I was quite overwhelmed by this.

Sure, this is good volume for money. But what about the value? Well, realising that a logo design at least will require 10 to 25 hours work, it is hard to get such a price from a freelancer (at least in the Netherlands considering €30 to 70 hourly rate).

What about the quality? You can just decide for yourself here (as long the page is available). It shows a poll by which I could invite people to vote on draft designs that I selected during the final round of the contest. The winning logo provided here below.

I am satisfied with the end result and decided to use it for my company. What I did like a lot is the option to step out of the contest free of charge after the first round of submissions. You can decide for yourself whether you believe the right designers are onboard during your contest. If not, just cancel it. Also, I could choose for a higher priced option (e.g. 9). This automatically attracts the more experienced designers in the community for your contest. Being a Dutchmen I obviously choose the 9 first...

Just wait and see?

Can you just wait, relax and get this winning design? No, not really. You obviously need to brief the designers but also respond to individual designers in order to guide them in the right direction. Some pick up the messages really well, some miss the point and others just try to send in some lucky shots. So, you really need to be selective, critical and responsive during the creation process. Else, it will be a tough job. Just calculating my own time, it is not more than outsourcing to an agency or freelancer. And realise, I did not need to get out of my chair to start the design and get the results. Just go to the website and press start.

While I was a bit sceptic to the word "contest" for this task, it really worked out as such, as designers respond to each other’s submissions. I needed to rate the designs with stars (from 1 to 5). Once I responded with many stars to a logo containing a lightbulb, many lightbulb lookalike logos flew in. Some designs felt like being "stolen or copied" but sometimes also in a more positive sense, where designers were obviously stimulated and came with better ones. A bit of a grey area when talking about copyrights by the way.

What about the designers?

So, while touching on the designer’s part, is this a fair deal for the designer? I cannot be fully objective, but I can imagine the "grey area" effect may come across as unfair for some. In the end only one designer wins the contest, meaning in my case 24 will not get any money while having put in their hours. In the case you feel your idea was "stolen" and somebody else is rewarded this might be extra painful.

On the other hand, I consider it a brilliant opportunity for junior designers anywhere based around the globe to get into the game. Wherever you come from, whatever your professional background is, you can just participate and send in your designs. The portfolio details of most designers where quite limited, but for 2 designers I could see they were based in Indonesia. After choosing my winner, I found out he also came from Indonesia and would earn 0 from this contest. From a social perspective, I believe this makes crowdsourcing really great, especially for workers in developing countries. You only need an internet connection and a PC and you can participate. You do not need to move house, work abroad or even immigrate. No CV required, no professional background needed, no "traditional" hiring process needed. Of course, you need the skills to deliver, but if you do, you have a fair chance to get into a business. In case that person needed to go the “traditional” way of sourcing he would never be able to do these projects. And then if you consider the 9, this seems a very social business to me.

My conclusion, eat it again or not?

Was it worthwhile? Yes, it was. Do I recommend this pudding? Yes, it tasted well.

It was fast, cheap, easy and with the option to step out free of charge. And foremost, I consider it a social platform. But, when you choose the cheapest option you need to be able to guide the designers and invest some time in that. If you don’t want to (or can’t), consider the higher priced options.

While this is just one example with one platform in one market, you might imagine the impact crowdsourcing services already have and will even bring more in the future. Just discover (or even start) the community in your area of interest and you will find out the great possibilities it can bring.

Happy (crowd)sourcing... Otto Vullers

Editorial note: please be aware that the information provided by no means is advertorial or promotional towards any brand or company whatsoever. The article provides my personal (and un-rewarded) views and experiences.


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