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Tap More Minds through Crowd Branding
By: Peter Migut
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Most people are familiar with crowdsourcing as a means of raising capital. Sites like Kickstarter have come to be known as a trendy way to finance creative projects or startups. Imagine a similar concept applied to the world of branding. What if, instead of pledging their dollars, participants from all over the world contributed their ideas to popularize brands, help them evolve, realize new opportunities…and maybe even create brands in the first place?
Welcome to the age of “crowd branding.” A relatively new term, it can mean different things to different people. Some marketers use the phrase to mean getting customers to engage and interact with a brand. Starbucks, for example, invites customers to share and discuss suggestions for virtually any aspect of its business through its My Starbucks Idea initiative. Ideas in action currently include everything from offering coconut milk to making store patios smoke-free.
Crowd branding can also mean developing marketing elements — or even entirely new brands — through harnessing the combined efforts of a crowd. Customers in a given niche are often more than willing to tell companies exactly what they want.
Quirky, the site best known as a place to submit ideas for inventions, not only relies on its members to evaluate ideas, it also involves members in the design and branding of products chosen for development. The community can, for instance, vote to narrow down colors and finished looks as well as help set price points and choose taglines.
A key advantage of crowd branding is that it allows marketers to get many varied perspectives pretty easily. It’s also relatively inexpensive. For small businesses, entrepreneurs, and even large corporations with budget constraints, it offers an alternative method to leverage talented people around the world.
A number of online services now let anyone tap into the collective power of crowd branding to create and shape their brands. Rather than just acting as freelance marketplaces, these sites allow businesses to post projects and view an assortment of ideas. crowdSPRING bills itself as the “world’s #1 marketplace for logos, graphic design and naming.” To start a project, users describe what they want, set the price they’re willing to pay, and post a deadline. As entries roll in, users can rate them and even give feedback, so the creatives get a better idea of what users want. A similar service, 99designs, works essentially the same way, treating the creative development process as a contest open to their community of over 200,000 designers.
Whether or not — and exactly how — marketers choose to use it, crowd branding is a potentially powerful new tool, bound to become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated in years ahead. Have you tried crowd branding yet? What marketing efforts could a crowd help you with?

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About the Author
A marketing professional based in central New Jersey, Peter Migut writes about branding and creativity in the 21st century. Visit him online here.
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