Crowds need a leader

This month’s Admap magazine is all about the “Wisdom of crowds” and examines how brands have successfully harnessed the creative power of their consumers to not only generate compelling creative work, but to get those same consumers to engage with, spread and evolve the dialogue that the brand had started. There are some interesting case studies in there and it is definitely worth a look if you have a copy floating around your office.

The thing is, for a lot of us in the media industry, we don’t need to be told of the benefits of crowd sourcing and user generated content, we need to be warned about rushing in headlong and just getting it wrong. Best case scenario is that you waste a lot of time and effort, worst case is that you actually damage brand perceptions and are seen as “Dad at the disco”

Today however I saw this which is a really useful example of how to get it right.

This is part of cmon and kypski’s One Frame of Fame project and it is one of the most engaging and entertaining pieces of crowdsourced content I have ever seen (Thanks to Chris Stephenson for the inspiration)

So what makes this so engaging and natural and fun when so many crowd sourcing attempts feel forced and awkward and naff? for an example of the latter see the T-mobile “Josh’s Band” effort

I think that there are a few rules that we can learn from the contrast of these two musical collaborations.

1) Crowds need leadership – you can’t expect them to just come up with a mind blowing concept just out of the blue. In Kypski’s video, the band give quite a prescriptive brief as to what is required if you want to get in their video. This give people clear parameters to work within and so they can pre-judge their own efforts according to those criteria

2)Thinking outside of the box first requires a box. If you ask people to come up with crazy and innovative ideas they are often paralysed by the potential choice of what they could do and so end up doing nothing. If instead you apply constraints to that choice it is easier for them to access their own creativity within set parameters. Small rebellions from those parameters will also then potentially lead to something that is innovative, clever, but most importantly usable. The human mind is its most innovative when presented with a problem to overcome. When you remove all barriers you remove the need to innovate.

3) Keep it simple – I shouldn’t have to point this one out, but it is amazing how often brands start to complicate matters when they are trying to generate consumer involvement. The barriers to entry must be so low as to be invisible otherwise they won’t bother. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are dying to get involved with your brand campaign, they are not and they will only get involved if it is easy and fun.

4) Allow them to engage on their terms – Just because you’ve got a facebook page or a microsite or a twitter feed that you want populating doesn’t mean that your consumer wants to engage in that way. Maximise the options for them and worry about the aggregation later.

I’m sure there are lots more to think about, but if more campaigns stuck to just these rules they may well be significantly more effective.

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