Business Today

The People Know Best

It is not only politicians who say so. Marketers seeking ideas feel the same. Crowdsourcing is the new buzzword in communications.
Shamni Pande | Print Edition: June 9, 2013

It was a dream come true for Bhaskar Kanchan. The Mumbai resident hurriedly scribbled an idea for a contest to write a commercial for his favourite car brand, the i10 - and ended up sharing screen space with superstar Shah Rukh Khan. His winning idea was simple: Kanchan turns into Khan each time he steps into Hyundai Motor India's small hatchback. "I have been a big fan of Hyundai and Shah Rukh Khan always. I'm really excited I am part of this commercial," says Kanchan.

process ... whether it is a social cause or even having a say in what they consume” Vidur Vyas, Marketing Director, (Foods) PepsiCo India
Consumers want to participate in the decision-making process ... whether it is a social cause or even having a say in what they consume: Vidur Vyas
Welcome to the world of crowdsourcing, the practice of tapping the collective intelligence of a large group of people to generate creative ideas for business. Companies in developed markets have been successfully using this method for a bit less than a decade, but it is still a relatively new concept in India. Thanks to the Internet and the digital revolution in the past few years, crowdsourcing is the new buzzword in communications and everybody from government institutions to companies and marketing agencies has jumped aboard the bandwagon to "source" ideas from the "crowd".

They use it to seek new ideas through contests and campaigns for everything from commercials to new logos, or to simply gather public opinion on new products. Experts say the strategy is working like a charm. Nalin Kapoor, Senior General Manager and Group Head, Marketing, at Hyundai Motor India, says the response to the 'Write Your i10 Story' contest was overwhelming: the company received more than 62,000 entries in just four weeks. "Our premium compact car, i10, has more than 1.2 million customers across the globe. To celebrate this achievement and to amplify and communicate with customers, we brought in the concept of crowdsourcing for our campaign," he adds. "Crowdsourcing costs as much as a traditional campaign; however, in terms of impact it is superior to a traditional campaign."

India has seen some massive crowdsourcing campaigns in the past few years. One of the most high-profile was a public design contest by the finance ministry to create a symbol for the rupee. Thousands of people sent in entries before the government zeroed in on the final symbol based on the Devanagari script using the letter Ra. In 2011, Hero MotoCorp India launched its online Billion Voices campaign for which it invited people to sing their interpretation of A.R. Rahman's Hum Mein Hai Hero anthem and then created several TV commercials from the content. Anil Dua, Senior Vice President (Marketing & Sales), Hero MotoCorp, says customers uploaded 5,200 videos on the campaign microsite.

Confectionery giant Perfetti Van Melle India crowdsourced the artwork for its Happydent chewing gum fliptop packs through a contest on crowdsourcing specia list Talenthouse's website. The winner was a 23-year-old Mumbai visual communications student. PepsiCo India held a 'Suggest a Flavour' campaign for its wafer brand, Lays, which drew a huge 1.4 million entries.

"Today, consumers want to participate in the decision-making process," says Vidur Vyas, Marketing Director (Foods), PepsiCo India. "We see this at all levels, whether it is a social cause or even having a say in what they consume. We picked up this trend over two years ago for our Lays campaign."

So, how does crowdsourcing work? Simple, some companies such as Samsung and Vodafone work exclusively with specialist agencies such as Talenthouse and Jade Magnet, while others such as Hyundai and Hero go with their regular ad agencies. Some brands stick to online media for crowdsourcing while others use traditional mass media such as television and print to drive consumers to their campaigns. According to Vyas, it depends on the need of the brand. Lays, for example, wanted to generate more hype and communicate with consumers through a traditional medium. But it is not an either-or choice for many marketers. "Each medium has its own benefits. TV is critical for all brand-building initiatives because of its high reach and reminder value whereas print is the apt medium to provide new news and information," says Hero MotoCorp's Dua.

Arun Mehra, CEO, Talenthouse Entertainment
We gave them (Micromax) a sample of popular consumer perception of their brand: Arun Mehra Photo: Rachit Goswami/
"However, significant inroads into these media have occurred with the emergence of digital media and a lot of ideas are now conceived specifically and first for the digital platform and then taken into traditional media."

The winning argument in favour of specialist players such as Talenthouse Entertainment, a joint venture between Reliance ADA Group and Talenthouse Inc, is the cost advantage. Talenthouse Entertainment CEO Arun Mehra says consumer electronics company Micromax approached them to generate ideas from the public for a new brand logo. A typical ad agency would have managed only 30-40 options. "We, however, managed to give them 2,500 logos and also gave them a sample of popular consumer perception of their brand by reaching out to just about anyone wanting to participate," says Mehra, whose agency has 28 brands from India under its belt. The campaign did not just help create a new logo but also secured people's views, for which the company would otherwise have had to conduct market research separately.

Not surprisingly, Manik Kinra, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Jade Magnet, finds many small and medium enterprises and even some start-ups using his service to crowdsource ideas. His company not only offers design and logo solutions through crowdsourcing, but also a complete package of creative and digital services such as website designing and gaming application solutions.

mosimageHe has offered Meru Cabs crowdsourced ideas to help choose its interiors. Kinra has also started driving active participation from designers and artists by visiting art schools and design colleges where there is a ready community willing to participate in any invitation for crowdsourcing ideas.

One leading marketing consultant says crowdsourcing is just a fancy new word for what has been around for years and was called customer suggestion. Globally, some experts say the term was coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 article in Wired magazine. Either way, everybody agrees it is an idea that is here to stay. Agnello Dias, Chief Creative Officer of advertising agency Taproot India , says sharp clarity is necessary to evaluate crowdsourced ideas. "If you are looking at interesting options, there are chances of getting swayed and using something that appeals to an individual as opposed to what is needed by the brand," he says.

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