The Perils of “Crowdsourcing”

The growth of social media marketing has been so precipitous that marketers are forecast to spend nearly $10 billion worldwide advertising on social networks by 2013. Yet this increased investment comes at a cost: blunders as brands learn the hard way what works in a medium where the public can talk back.   in New Media and Marketing calls this “crowdsourcing.” With social media consumers often have the last say, and you need to be prepared to hear what people really think of you.

The book, #FAIL the 50 Greatest Social Media Screw Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One highlights some Social Media blunders that have cost some brands a lot of money and a lot of people jobs. One Social Media blunder you can make is to outsource the company’s social media voice to an external agency, which causes you to lose control over your own voice and authenticity, which is all-important in Social Media branding. According to New Media and Marketing:

By placing a Twitter or facebook account in the hands of an agency employee you are essentially placing all your brand equity and brand voice in the hands of that employee

Worst Practice: PepsiCo’s Packaging Blunder

PepsiCo redesigned the iconic packaging of its best-selling Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice line in 2009, replacing the image of a sun-bright orange and drinking straw protruding from the top with a yellowish glass of juice and new screw-off cap, it was panned by consumers saying it looked it “just like a penis head.”

The public response was bad enough, but the impact on their bottom line was worse. Following the redesign, sales dropped 20% costing the company an estimated $33 million.

However, the blogs and consumer forums discussing the new Tropicana design showed that not everyone hated it, and many were fairly neutral to the changes. However, it was the ones who hated it that dictated the public discourse around the relaunch.

Why didn’t PepsiCo monitor public opinion on a daily basis? Why didn’t they do any meanigful consumer testing or a pilot before releasing it on the market? While it is almost certain that they conducted traditional consumer focus groups, their mistake was to ignore social media. As Rich Meyer summarizes it:

In an age when a video of a Fed-X delivery person throwing a package over a fence can go viral brands have to remember that consumers are gaining new weapons in the war of bad brands and service (i.e cell phones that allow them record video anywhere and post it online). This is why marketers need to spend a hell of a lot more time on social media strategy and integrate it with their overall marketing.  But always be prepared for pissed off consumers who love to vent.

Snap! principle of Social Media Market Testing:

Kill the Focus Group and listen to Social Media fans instead