Building a crowdsourced consensus

Jul 30, 2021

GDR’s Managing Editor John O’Sullivan explores how crowdsourcing has matured from a marketing ploy into a valuable product development tool.

About five or six years ago “crowdsourcing” was one of the real buzzwords of the brand marketing world. As smartphone ownership and social media usage became ubiquitous, brands and marketers were constantly finding new ways to invite their most engaged consumers to share, contribute or co-create. Crowdsourcing become a useful shortcut for brands to appear democratic and approachable, while making fans feel as if they were playing a role in shaping the brand’s future development.

The reality, however, is that in most cases these crowdsourced activations were purely a marketing move reserved for limited edition campaigns or very short-term physical pop-ups and they rarely made any meaningful impact on the core proposition of the brands employing the tactic.

However, in recent years we’ve noticed a shift in the way that brands are using the principles of crowdsourcing. No longer reserved for marketing campaigns, crowdsourced data and constant feedback loops from key stakeholders are being employed to create products and services that are more robust, and thus are much more likely to prove popular with customers and produce less surplus stock.

In this article I pick out five recent innovations, which suggest to me that crowdsourcing is now playing a much more meaningful role in product development.


Reebok First Pitch

Reebok has launched First Pitch, a platform for the brand to share sneaker designs before they are put into production.

The goal of the concept is to reduce waste: by gauging interest from consumers, Reebok can easily identity which designs are likely to sell well and avoid ones which won’t, thus reducing the number of sneakers that never get sold.

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Finesse is a tech-driven fashion brand that uses artificial intelligence and input from their loyal customers to decide what to include in each of its limited collections.

The brand uses proprietary algorithms and machine learning technology to analyse fashion trends across the internet. It then uses the data from this to inform the design of three different fashion drops. At this point it opens the floor up to its customers by inviting them to vote for their favourite, with only the winning outfit going into production. Taking cues from streetwear, each outfit is positioned as a drop, which is announced in advance and only available for a set period of time.

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Amazon Build It

Build It is a product development initiative from Amazon in which new product designs will only go into production once they hit a certain number of pre-orders.

Build It will publish Amazon’s designs for new Alexa-enabled tech products to its web page, and each design will then have a 30-day window in which to hit its pre-order goal. If the design reaches the threshold, it gets made and customers will be charged when their product is shipped. If it doesn’t reach the threshold, it won’t get made and the customer will not be charged.

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MyGlammXO Secret Lab

Indian beauty brand MyGlamm has opened a 3,000 sq ft flagship store in Mumbai that includes a ‘secret lab’ accessible only to its MyGlammXO Insider community. Here, crowdsourced product innovations are available for testing, and customers can add their feedback on these products to the lab’s ‘future innovation feedback wall’. The store therefore provides a key role in a feedback loop for developing products suggested by the brand’s most involved customers.

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WhistlePig HomeStock

WhistlePig HomeStock is a blended whiskey created in collaboration with thousands of at-home whiskey enthusiasts courtesy of what is being referred to as an “immersive crowd-blending experience”. WhistlePig worked with premium whiskey appreciation club Flaviar, who sent WhistlePig ‘Blend Your Own’ whiskey kits to its members and invited them to create their own unique blend. All of the submissions were analysed by Pete Lynch, WhistlePig’s Master Blender, who picked out the three most popular blends, which were voted upon by Flaviar members with the most popular one going into production.

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