Decrease The Unpredictability of Campaigns

No matter what kind of business you are – small, medium, or large – or what kind of products or services you offer, you are inevitably going to have to market yourself. For most organizations, marketing themselves is a hit-or-miss action almost every single time. Everyone is hoping that their ideas are going to work and that their audience is going to respond positively. Most of all, everyone is hoping that the money they’re spending isn’t in vain, and that they’re going to gain a substantial return on investment. Yet regardless of all the projections, all the statistics, and all of the promises on behalf of marketing agencies, campaigns still fail, slogans still suck, money is still lost and it’s all just a giant gamble. But, what if you could take the gamble out of the equation and move forward with any aspect of your marketing and branding with confidence that this will work and the money you’re spending will garner a return? Well, we got some fantastic news for you, but before we get into what it is, let’s look at a few of the primary reasons marketing campaigns fail to begin with.

You Don’t Understand Your Target Audience

In order for any marketing effort to be effective, the audience you’re targeting has to respond to such a degree that you make a return on your investment. If you make and sell raincoats, it’s safe to say that you probably shouldn’t spend your marketing dollars catering to people residing in Arizona. Of course not! You want people living in Seattle, Washington and New York City – heck, you want affluent customers who live in the rainforest during monsoon season to know all about your raincoats.

As simple as this concept is, it’s not always so easy to pinpoint your target audience, or craft your campaign message in an appealing way. As the saying goes – you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can dangle your product in front of the right demographic, but if it doesn’t appeal to them, then your campaign is a bust. Understanding your target audience is more than just knowing who they are and where they live, it’s understanding what they want and how they respond.

You Lost Your Message

You wouldn’t give away disposable products during a “save the earth” campaign, right? Well, you would be surprised just how many businesses have done just that. With a seemingly innocent giveaway of custom ballpoint pens and personalized magnets during Earth Day events, businesses lost their message, and drew scrutiny upon themselves by the very audience they were trying to reach. This is just one example of how easy it is for businesses to lose their message when in the midst of an advertising storm. In order for any kind of marketing to be successful the message itself cannot be convoluted – it has to be pinpointed and straight to the point.

You Tried to Please The Wrong People

Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make when crafting any aspect of a marketing campaign – the big daddy of marketing mishaps – is when the business or organization tries to please the people in charge rather than the people who buy your product (your customers!). You should always keep your target market in mind at all times to improve your end results and stop trying to brown nose executives who probably don’t have a creative bone in their body. It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.

The Gamble

Now, the above mentioned three reasons so many marketing campaigns fail are pretty common utterances. Even someone with an elementary understanding of how marketing is done could balk at those points and say they’re nothing new. In the words of Sherlock Holmes, it may be “elementary”. But, revisiting the foundational elements of failure and success time and time again is an imperative to being successful and continuing to excel in, well, pretty much anything.

The reason we’re revisiting these three core concepts of marketing failure here is not so much to explain what to watch out for, but to find out why, even with ardent and purposeful avoidance of these problems, failure still occurs. Why is it that a business and its chosen advertising agency know wholeheartedly the dangers of not understanding its target market, losing its message, and trying to please the wrong people, yet still end up with failed campaigns? Why is it that tons of money can be thrown at demographics research, tons of time can be spent making sure the original message isn’t lost, and plenty of haggling with upper management can be done to make sure an idea that is best suited to consumers is given the green light, but failure still occurs consistently?

Even when you use focus groups, studies, and complex demographics information to test campaigns before launch, it really comes down to hoping a campaign works and holding your breath until the results come in. It’s a gambling game. No matter what kind of campaign you’re attempting to run – whether it be a traditional offline campaign or an online campaign or a combination between the two – the projected results are always just projections, and most of the time those projections are based on very skewed information that’s far from accurate. It’s the equivalent of card counting or mathematically determining the probability of landing on black.

The goal of any marketing agency is to eliminate, as far as possible, the guessing game and to supply clients with the clearest possible projections of success or failure when it comes to any kind of campaign. With new and sophisticated analytical tools, especially for online campaigns, becoming more available and advanced, firms are able to offer in-depth information about target demographics. One tool helping to get rid of all the guessing and gambling is crowdsourcing.

What is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is a lot like how it sounds. Essentially, it means to appeal to a large crowd of people who make up your target demographic, and ask their opinion on where to go with a specific aspect of your marketing campaign – from naming your product, to displaying your logo, to how your brochure content reads. The general idea is that the wisdom of the crowd is ultimately better than any small group of people such as a focus group or those in a boardroom meeting, or even the entire creative department at an advertising agency. By taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals in your target market, the aggregated data has been found to be better than the answer given by any one individual in a group, which is basically what typical marketing campaigns boil down to – a small group of people making a huge decision.

With crowdsourcing, you have a large group of initially unbiased consumers clamoring to simply provide their opinion on particular aspects of your campaign. After this has been accomplished, the data can be processed to reveal the most popular opinions, allowing for the campaign to flow in that particular direction according to the wisdom of the crowd. It takes the average over a large number of responses to cancel out the chances of failure that a single individual or small group of individuals may incur during a campaign.

Does Crowdsourcing Work?

Let’s look at a few examples of major companies who have used the wisdom of the crowd to push forth incredibly successful marketing campaigns.


Starbucks created an ongoing campaign titled MyStarbucksIdea. Basically, the company encouraged customers to improve their Starbucks experience by submitting their ideas. The result has led to over 130 ideas being implemented, some of which have found their way to the latest mobile apps allowing customers to create their own drinks, reusable cold cups, and canvas shopping bags. By reaching out to their current loyal customers, Starbucks crowdsourced their way to a better, all around experience for current and emerging customers the world over, which in turn created more brand loyalty on behalf of current customers and their willingness to encourage others to shop at Starbucks.

Ben & Jerry’s

When this quirky ice cream giant wanted to come up with a new flavor, they created a campaign called “Do The World a Flavor” in which they encouraged Facebook fans from around the world to submit their ideas. They created an app on Facebook, which allowed fans to generate new flavors within a “Creation Station” using only Fairtrade ingredients, mixing and matching combinations of ice cream basis and chunks. Not only was it extremely fun for fans, they successfully created a new flavor without actually having to do any of the guess work themselves while boosting brand loyalty and widening their customer base in one fell swoop.


For four years, Dell has been running a continuing crowdsourcing project called IdeaStorm. It was created to give a direct voice to customers and become an avenue for online brainstorming sessions, which allows customers to share ideas and collaborate with one another along with Dell. More than 15,000 ideas have been generated since its launch with 432 of those ideas being implemented such as offering Linux as an operating system on Dell hardware.

Crowdsourcing is probably the best way for brands to connect directly to consumers to influence and even dictate the future direction of any marketing campaigns, products, or services. With traditional research, brands and organizations use rigid, scientific methodologies that end up being more or less an educated guess. To get the same level of participation and consumer information that is in the crowd out of traditional focus groups, organizations would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to organize, pay participants, and consolidate data, but with crowdsourcing the cost is a fraction of that, with quicker turnaround, greater flexibility, enhanced collaboration, and improved velocity.

With crowdsourcing, you’re solving the three major problems of why marketing campaigns fail – you understand your target audience by speaking directly to them, the wisdom of the crowd keeps you on track with your message, or even influences it in a better direction, and you’re pleasing the right people by acting on what your target audience desires and votes on.

The Downsides of Crowdsourcing

Right along with all of the successes of crowdsourcing, there have been failures as well, such as Kraft Foods rather hilarious blunder. Kraft Foods Australia attempted to use crowdsourcing solely for the launch of a new product. They began selling their new cream cheese and Vegemite spread with ‘Name Me’ on the label, which encouraged customers to submit their own suggestions for the spread’s eventual name. However, the crowd’s response was one of apathy and humor, eventually churning out the name iSnack 2.0. Kraft ran with the name, garnering huge, widespread laughter from consumers and media alike.

When crowdsourcing becomes a gamble – much like more traditional methods of marketing – is when organizations put all of their faith in the crowd and simply sit back with no controlling measure. The New York Mets, for example, posted a poll on their website asking fans to pick a song that would be played during the eighth inning of a big game. This was in 2008 during the height of “Rickrolling” or duping people into viewing the video “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley circa 1987. Even though the Mets offered such American classics as Jon Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” Astley’s song won by a landslide and the entire crowd at the game was Rickrolled.

Therein lies the potential for crowdsourcing to go horribly, horribly wrong – when the crowd itself is up to no good. It’s Condorcet’s jury theorem – a political science theorem, which states that if a crowd is slightly more likely to be wrong about a subject, then the bigger the crowd, the more likely they are to get the wrong answer.

Because the public aren’t professionals or experts in branding, advertising, and marketing, it can be dangerous to have even well-targeted crowds choose your campaigns for you. When all of the power is given over to the crowd, then you’re once again stuck in the gambling game – you’re just hoping that they come up with something that’s going to work, and that you don’t end up with another iSnack 2.0 or, even worse, Rickrolled.

Crowdsourcing The Right Way

So, if traditional data collection methods and tactics for marketing campaign creation essentially accumulates into a well-educated guessing game, but a guessing game nonetheless, and crowdsourcing has just as much of a propensity of going horribly wrong, then how is crowdsourcing really any different? Well, the difference is in how you use it.

The weaknesses of traditional marketing metrics and projections are their rigidity, costs for focus group testing, and lack of input from the target demographic. The weakness in crowdsourcing is allowing a crowd to choose your marketing campaign for you without any intelligent oversight.

In order for crowdsourcing to work at its highest efficiency, it must be paired with traditional marketing techniques. To use one or the other is to invite error, to use both in tandem is to dramatically reduce the chance of error.

The Method is your perfect solution – we offer the guidance and creative marketing techniques of a traditional marketing firm, with highly sophisticated crowdsourcing techniques. However, we do not ever rely on crowdsourcing to fully dictate the way a campaign is run, we only use the voting results as additional input to help better determine the outcome of a marketing campaign.

Let’s say you need a logo designed and a new name for a product you are introducing soon. A typical marketing company would consult with you, determine your target demographic through research, and begin developing logo concepts and names to pander to that target demographic while keeping your organization’s message and vision intact.

However, if you went solely for a crowdsourced solution, you would instead allow the crowd to come up with the logo and the name, then vote on which one was best, which would entirely determine the outcome of your logo, name, and subsequent campaign.

In the first example, the information being used to create the concepts is essentially backward looking –trend and sales data of your target audience, although recent, is still not current. In addition to that both the organization and the marketing agency are operating in a bubble where the end decision on how to move forward is between a group of very small people without any direct, current input from the target audience. The only time that input arrives is after the campaign has launched, at which time it will either fail or succeed.

In the second example, the marketing agency and organization relinquish their creative control, throwing all their money on the wisdom of the crowd to come up with something clever that they can run with. Now, you may be thinking that, if you don’t like the result, you can simply reject it. That’s exactly what L’oreal did in early 2011 after they launched their “Sublime Mousse” hair color campaign, asking Facebook fans to vote on who would be the next model for the product. The fans voted for 71-year-old Renate Gerdes, but L’Oreal’s jury overlooked the selection made by their own fans, which enraged the crowd, and prompted many of them to stop buying the product. Consequently, their competitor Schwarzkopf seized the opportunity and had Renate Gerdes participate in their campaign, which caused the crowd to shift support for the competitor instead.

What is combine the two methods. We go the traditional route by handing the project over to our creative department, which, after research begins churning out concepts. We then take those concepts and put them into our sophisticated crowdsourcing software, which uses polls, multiple choice questions, and so on to provide targeted feedback and voting in a private, controlled manner.

Using informed input from our creative team combined with the wisdom of the crowd, our agency and your organization can make a better educated decision on how to move forward with a campaign. However, neither the agency nor the crowd have the final say – you do. Even if you’re not entirely satisfied with the concepts that are delivered or what the crowd has voted on, we will go back to the drawing board. You don’t pay until your satisfied.

This bridges the gap between traditional marketing and crowdsourcing, which dramatically decreases the gambling aspect of marketing, and makes for a much more fluid, concrete way to go about crafting anything having to do with your organization’s brand and advertising.

It’s time to stop gambling on success by contacting No matter what kind of marketing you have in mind – from simple, quick concepts to dramatic re-branding efforts and long-term online/offline campaigns – we here at will be able to offer you dynamic solutions with a much higher probability of success and less risk to you than other leading marketing agencies.

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