Creativity Finds Its Genesis Alone

Image by Camila Dal-Ri Brugnera

Society values collaboration and groupthink in our decision making and increasingly attention-based popularity driven social web, but a collaborative culture repels creativity. We are not good for me (at least from a creative standpoint).

A study from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist shows that the most creative minds are introverted, they need quiet and alone time to prosper.

In essence, new directions aren’t necessarily crowdsourced. An idea starts somewhere, and usually that’s with an individual.
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The Customer Is Not Your CMO

Walmart's "It's Back" Tags Direct Customer to a Detergent Reintroduced to Store
Image by Walmart Stores

Wouldn’t it be great if customers ran marketing?

No, I don’t think it would be great. In fact, it would suck.

It flies in the face of the way business occurs. People within a company determine how to build products for, market to, and serve customers.

A customer centric business model is smart and often the mark of a successful company. Great companies exist to serve these customers. Today, the social business movement (an unfortunate term born to be clichéd from the get go) seeks to reinvigorate modern companies with a listening-based customer-centric model.

But let’s be clear here, customer centric does not make your CMO a customer. The customer has no interest in showing a company how to market. Honestly, the only time they tend to interact with a company after a sale is because of a customer service issue, or because they are ready for a next generation product.

Yes, there are die hard evangelists, and these are invaluable resources for a company. But the customer has no seat at the table, how can they be the CMO?

Nor would they be good at it because they have no professional training. While crowdsourcing advertisements have yielded some diamonds for products like Doritos, an overwhelming majority of the crowdsourced ads are crap. Really, they are. We just see the one good one out of the lot.

What About Customer Service?

Some say that customer service should be the linchpin in a customer marketing experience. Let’s be clear: Customer service is a touchpoint, not The Touchpoint.

It’s a feedback loop for product development and marketing, and the front line. When consistently excellent, customer service can create word of mouth and new sales.

Companies that don’t understand and listen to their customers experience problems because not only are the ignoring their customer, but also the flaws in their offering. That’s because customer service is usually activated when people are pissed, not when they are happy.

What about the vast majority of happy customers who never call? How can customer service represent them?

Just like the army doesn’t want GI Joe managing a supply line, international troop deployment, and war strategy, I don’t want customer service driving marketing. While feedback can lead to innovation, overall I think the effect would be stymied, reactive products that don’t advance anywhere nearly as quickly as they currently do.

Just my two cents on working with customers, crowdsourcing for a few years, and building programs to market for companies, including a turnaround campaign or two that involved negative customer perception. What do you think? Is the customer your CMO?

Memo to Crowdsourcing: Grow Up

by GeniusRocket President Peter LaMotte

At some point, every teenage boy looks around his bedroom and realizes it’s time to grow up. The little league trophies. The Star Wars sheets. The Elle McPherson poster (okay, maybe those last two can stay). But anything that’s going to embarrass you when you bring your college girlfriend home has got to go. You don’t need anyone to tell you—you just wake up one day and know it’s time to move forward.

Just like you wish your Little League career had, in just a few years, the term crowdsourcing has lurched out of obscurity to become a major part of the world we live in, especially within the marketing lexicon.

Most marketers have either first hand experience with crowdsourcing, or at a minimum have heard the term and know they should learn more. But crowdsourcing has evolved beyond just crowdsourcing for video and graphic design to include complex research, micro-financing and vast ideation. And while the teenage kid may not know what crowdsourcing is; he knows as he watches the Super Bowl each year, that a few of those ads are lot funnier than the others. He also doesn’t realize, that he’s witnessing a powerful new marketing trend. Because crowdsourcing may actually be most well known through the Doritos and Pepsi contests that premier each year during the Super Bowl.

First in 2007, Doritos was ahead of the crowd, no pun intended, when they turned to the masses to source what they hoped would be an entertaining commercial. In using the Super Bowl as the platform to launch these videos, Doritos, along with their agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, took a considerable risk. Less than one year earlier, Chevrolet experienced a PR nightmare when it used a crowdsourcing contest to mash up Chevy Tahoe ads resulting in less-than-brand-loving tag lines such as “It’s Global Warming Time” and spots that touted the killing power of a large SUV. Yet, surprisingly, Doritos’s results were not only brand-friendly, catching and entertaining but generated endless buzz about Doritos and the power of creative crowdsourcing.

After taking one Super Bowl off from sourcing commercials, and turned to discovering unknown musicians through a crowdsourcing campaign, Doritos and its parent company Pepsi, came back to crowdsourcing for the 2009 Super Bowl and has stayed with the user-generated content approach each year since.

There is no question that they have delivered highly entertaining ads across the years by turning to the crowdsourced approach. The ads have consistently proven that crowdsourcing can produce great viral content and guaranteed viewership.

Now fast forward to 2011 and Doritos’s fourth trip to the crowdsourcing well, and one thing is clear, physical and childish humor seems to be content that rises to the top. In every year that Doritos has turned to crowdsourcing (including this year where sister brand Pepsi Max joined the competition) the majority of the crowdsourced ads selected for the Super Bowl are ones based upon physical comedy and sexual innuendo.

This is not to suggest that these aren’t effective ads. Especially for teenage boys. They continue to score very well on the USA Today Ad Meter. But the ads make a convincing argument that crowdsourcing needs to grow up and be less about men being hit in the groin.

Given the right incentive or a well-constructed crowdsourcing model, there is no reason why this year’s hugely popular Volkswagen Darth Vader spot couldn’t have been crowdsourced. Even Chrysler spot about Detroit could have been created (without the Eminem’s appearance of course) through crowdsourcing. Neither ad needed multimillion-dollar special effects, or multi-location scouting. It simply needs a big idea and talented production team.

This isn’t to say that these quality ads aren’t being generated already through video crowdsourcing sites, but the lessons brands need to learning from Doritos’s success aren’t about the power of crowdsourcing. Time and time again, when major brands turn to crowdsourcing for ads, they often set up creative briefs asking for sophomoric story lines.

You can generate just as much buzz and online discussion with an emotionally powerful crowdsourced video as you would with any cheap laugh. Brand managers and agencies need to trust in the production companies and freelancers of the world to create content that can bring you to tears from sentimental emotion just as easily as getting hit in the crotch can solicit a laugh.

Peter LaMotte (@peterlamotte) is President of GeniusRocket, a Curated Crowdsourcing company. The Curated Crowdsourcing model relies upon a vetted community of experienced and professional production companies, writers, and advertising veterans to deliver high quality commercial video content at a fraction of the cost of traditional means. Peter previously worked at Corporate Executive Board, IBM, and Apple. He holds BA in International Business from Rhodes College, and MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Some Truths About Crowdsourcing

Geoff Livingston (@geoffliving) at the Nationals

In today’s online world, the term crowdsourcing gets bandied about quite a bit. It’s the most difficult and visible form of community-based social engagement. For companies and nonprofits alike it has become a nirvana-like state to attain.

Yet, much of today’s conversations deal with fleeting uses of “crowdsourcing,” such as asking questions of Twitter communities. There are also plenty of interesting articles about benefits and the possible impact of sustainable crowdsourcing (as well as the tools to do it) but I find that the pragmatic how-to experience is missing.

The issue with the resulting lack of information is that most folks have no idea how difficult sustained crowdsourcing can be. I’ve had a couple of turns at it myself with major projects, one I would call very successful, the other average. Both required a ton of work and management that afterwards made me feel contemporary thinking can use some more depth.


Just based on my own experiences, here are some lessons (some obvious) that you don’t see in contemporary discussions about crowdsourcing ideas, innovation and change:

1) The crowd has to care, and they have to be made into heroes. The latter part is well documented (rewarding active community members), but the prior isn’t. In my mind, crowdsourcing is the last stage of a well-thought out social media strategy (UNLESS you are having a contest with a notable purse as a reward).

The managing party must understand its subject matter AND the community’s inherent interest in that topic. The crowdsourced effort serves both parties. Otherwise you will crowdsource little to nothing. Or worse, you’ll be evangelizing to get people to participate.

2) While the crowd craves freedom, it desperately needs structure. People need to be told how to participate and the rules of engagement. These rules have to be clear, empowering of the crowd, and directive in their end result.

Believe me, I’ve tried it the other way, but your crowdsourcing effort needs to be well structured (See Beth Kanter’s discussion of Chase’s Community giving contest design). A recent crowdsourcing effort made me realize how much more simplified our process needed to get for the future.

3) Rules need to be enforced or adapted. Issues come all the time because people invariably do what they want, the rules be damned. The organization needs to either enforce them, or publicly change them and show why they are amending them. Then you have to be ready to deal with the haters.

For citizengulf, I threw out a day-time yoga event because it wondered too far away from the mission/purpose as well as the event style, and it competed with another event in the same city. No was the obvious answer. And as a result, I got plenty of email telling me I was an a-hole. So be it.

4) You’ll need to invest a lot of management resources. If you think social media is time consuming, try crowdsourcing. It involves grassroots customer service and handholding like you cannot imagine (I was amazed). You may publish a lot of information, but you need to be present for your community if you expect them to be present for you. Crowdsourcing innovation does not mean outsourcing human resources, just the innovation. And even then you may end up refining it like Cisco had to with its I-Prize innovation contest.

There are other issues, such as managing the idea market so that popularity doesn’t trump quality. Another is ensuring that while the crowd may want a result, that the business or nonprofit mission maintains its integrity.

I am not the biggest fan of Pepsi Refresh (I still struggle with understanding how this is impacting society and the incredible amount of Vote for Me #pepsirefresh spam it creates). That being said, I admire the hell out of Pepsi Refresh from a communicator’s perspective. It’s incredible that they can maintain interest, and handle the amount of issues that continually come up with their contest. From first hand conversations with their team, it is clear how hard they have worked, and continue to work to keep this contest going and to support their winners. The sustained energy is simply impressive.

The well discussed benefits of crowdsourcing are amazing, but going in with eyes wide open about the task at hand is critical. First hand experience and research about crowdsourcing are also helpful. It’s my intent to continue this conversation with best practices for causes from a tactical management standpoint via a by-lined article on Mashable. Stay tuned.

Hope for Better Conversations

Virgin Island Sunrise

by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingston

So we know what we don’t want to hear about any more. How about increasing the volume on some conversation that push people to think or act more mindfully, bettering our professions, our societies, and our day-to-day lives? Our last post was tongue in cheek, but this one is full of hope (and a little humor, too). Here are 10 current or would-be memes that could better our online conversations.

1. Stakeholders Are Smarter Than Most : Wouldn’t your job would be 100% easier if you let your customers/donors and/or volunteers do their job? And that job is to participate in a relationship with your organization as extended members of the enterprise, either as customers, donors, volunteers, or brand investors. Let’s take it one step further shall we? How about letting stakeholders sit at the heart of your organization so that they help to design (or at least influence) the products and services they want to buy. (Was that you shuddering at the thought?!).

In Greg Verdino’s new book ‘microMarketing’ (a book we highly suggest you read), he shares the story of Lauren Luke. Lauren Luke is a young makeup entrepreneur that created a following using social media tools and eBay. Even now that she is recognized globally (her line is now carried by Sephora), she still keeps her customers (not the media, not herself) at the heart of her business. They help pick colors, names, etc. and they are extremely loyal to Lauren. Imagine that? Customers that are loyal. Hmmm.

2. Citizen Journalism: It’s so promising, and there are great examples emerging periodically. Having experienced this personally with CitizenGulf, it’s a great way to move from pitching to providing seriously valuable information. Further, good citizen journalism – if encouraged – can help with the general degradation of content quality we are seeing across all media. How can citizen journalism be encouraged, bettered, and more widespread? Besides, who doesn’t want to be (or maybe be with) Anderson Cooper?

3. I Screwed Up, So?: Why is it when it comes to social media (and marketing & PR) we only hear self-patting back echos? It’s doubtful that corporations and agencies score a perfect 10 every time. Mistakes, or their cousin, flops, are always made (Pepsi, anyone?). Perhaps if people were more open to admitting that sometimes mistakes come from trying to do something different or innovative they’d be more empathetic and less tempted to skewer a brand in a meme. How about having the guts (being nice there) to publicly fail? Even better, how about an effective apology?

4. Using Open Government Data: So the Obama Administration is opening up all of this data, and generally civilians, nonprofits and businesses are not using it. While this may be as far as the mighty O can deliver on open government, civilians and the private sector can do more. This open data represents an incredible resource from a semantic, societal and general pragmatic basis for online media. So how can we create better analysis, applications and uses for this fantastic data? While there are initial thought leaders starting to discuss and use this data, we could stand for much more conversation… and action.

5. Culture Shifting: Unfortunately, the days of office politics are far from long gone. There are just some people (a lot of them!) who can’t see beyond their own insecurities and needs in order to be a part of something larger than themselves. Anyone who has been neck deep in social media knows this to be true. Customers could care less about personal issues, they have their own problems. There are companies and nonprofits trying to lead the way to culture shift change, why aren’t we hearing more about it? Is it too soon? This evolution from industrial silos to networked structures is the future. Let’s talk about it!


6. Better Crowdsourcing: As soon as the vote for me meme ends… Wait, let’s shift it towards better crowdsourcing. By far, crowdsourcing is the most difficult of social media strategies to master. Even some of the industry’s leading thought leaders seem to have a hard time getting down to actual mechanics and experiences. We’d like to see a lot more conversation about what does and doesn’t work with crowdsourcing and why.

7. Marketing 3.0: Given that some marketers don’t even get Marketing 1.0 (‘cause you know, anyone can be a marketer), it’s with hesitation this one is even mentioned. Marketing 3.0 is about getting to the level where our stakeholders are today (as we know, they aren’t sitting back waiting to receive your marketing campaigns). If you are still focused on what products and services you want to bring to the market, you’re still at 1.0. If you are focused on social media, you’re at Marketing 2.0. If you see the whole customer (and no, sCRM isn’t the way to do it) as people — not just consumers — Marketing 3.0 is where you want to be.

In addition, Marketing 3.0 organizations have aspirations to add value to the world as a whole, not just to their bottom-line. They in essence want to be responsible citizens, not just cause marketers. Example: The Body Shop.

8. The 2010 Election: It’s going to happen with or without us. And most people are groaning. But elections represent a period of innovation in communications, and there are inevitable experiments and successes that occur. How are the GOP trying to leapfrog the Democrats sensational social networking success in 2008? Will it work? Why? How will the Democrats counter? Arm chair communicators should celebrate and talk about the Super Bowl of PR that’s about to occur.

9. Augmented Reality: Talking about toys, er, tools, seems to be inevitable online. So maybe we can talk about the next game changer instead of Steve Jobs, for crying out loud. We’re so over Mister I Don’t, er Do, Flash. Once augmented reality goes mainstream, it will change the way we interact online, and in reality. This means a paradigm shift for communicators. We should be talking about this, seriously.

10. Your Turn. We thought the right thing to do since it is supposed to be a conversation is open source our last meme. What do you think the conversational market place is missing and why?