Tag: "crowdsourcing"

Who wants to build crowdsourcing done right?

Really.  I mean it.

After being prodded by a few of my peers I’ve got to make a quick appeal – if only just to see what happens.

crowdSPRING is pretty awesome, but isn’t quite right for the level of brand development that professional organizations need.  That’s one of the reasons why Stokefire stepped in and has begun utilizing crowdSPRING’s service and offering to manage the crowd sourcing process.  We’re getting great feedback… but the solution doesn’t scale well, and the technical tools needed to manage the process efficiently aren’t there yet.

The philosophy we bring to the table is one that I think organizations like crowdSPRING, Kluster, and GeniusRocket understand, but haven’t been able to fully support.

Among many concerns, the current implementation of crowdsourcing balances on the fact that the client knows what they’re looking for and how to communicate and interact with the designers.  The creative brief is written by the client, and the creative community either has to follow it or risk being thrown out of the process by breaking the rules.

The unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of clients don’t know what they’re looking for, what they need, or how to communicate it.  Any creative brief based on the client’s understanding of what can be done with their own brand is likely to be dangerously inaccurate, short-sighted, or at least one-sided.  Crowdsourcing as practiced today can’t rectify this.

To compare… We hire a plumber to stop a leak.  Rarely do we suggest that he might be able to save money if he used chewing gum instead of putty… yet when it comes to creative tasks via crowdsourcing the client is effectively doing just that – demanding things that no experienced professional would ever agree to provide.  Creatives that don’t know any better will submit ideas that meet the client’s stated need (thus not serving him well) and creatives that submit ideas that actually serve him well will be ignored because they miss the stated objective.  How is that helpful to anyone?

Here are a few reasons you might want to jump in and help fund the project…

We intend to work with groups like the AIGA and other organizations representing the creative community to understand their concerns and ensure that options are available that honor their key concerns.  People shouldn’t have to work on spec – and our system will afford both designers and clients the flexibility to accomodate that.

As creatives ourselves we understand how creative projects flow, and will build the system to allow for iterative design rather than the current “my idea, my design, my money” model that everyone is using.  The power of crowds isn’t in the sheer number of submissions, it’s in the crowd’s ability to produce a promising concept, and have it recognized and refined by countless other creatives.

Recent high-profile crowdsourcing projects have shown the current model doesn’t scale well.  A $300 project may be fairly easy to manage, but when you get into more attractive design budgets over about $5,000 the sheer volume of submissions becomes unmanageable.  We’ve cracked this nut in a way that not only solves the problem, but gives valuable guidance to those producing the work.  (Today when there are many designs submitted most never get more than a low resolution peek from the client.  Our system gets every design analyzed without making the client go crazy or blind.)

We also resolve the client education issue mentioned at the beginning of this post, we help art directors to refine their craft (and get paid for doing so), we have ways to attract A-list designers to participate, we can make outright copying of published work seriously difficult and unappealing, we match up the job with people qualified to do it, we help designers to improve the quality of their work over time, and even give real-world agencies a way to participate as both client and creative, making the whole solution much less threatening to old-school players.

With funding we could make it happen – or we could partner with an existing provider that really wants to get it right.  Without funding?  Well… that’s where we are today.  With a crowdsourcing solution that’s busted.

If you’re a VC or angel with connections in the cloud computing or web services space and you’re interested… drop us a note.

In the meantime… I gotta go brand stuff, sans crowd.

And thanks to JD (most recently) and the rest of you for needling me enough to actually write this.  Let’s see what happens…


Sometimes Crowdsourcing Sucks.

So I’m sitting at my desk and a tweet comes across telling me that a “Company Slogan needs a name.”  Not sure how to interpret that… So I check it out.

Apparently one of the crowdsourcing companies out there has an automated broadcast that just says “[Fill in the blank] needs a name” and this was just an instance of a client asking for something that wasn’t anticipated.  (They already had the name – they needed a tagline.  Mystery solved.  Except I get a bit more confused when I look into it…

I haven’t used this particular crowdsourcing service, so I’m not sure what questions they ask of their clients.  This particular client offered a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that was communicated thusly:

Our Unique Selling Proposition is “The Absolute Unquestioned Leader in Quality. Lowest Price and Responsiveness”

And therein lies the problem with crowdsourcing as it is performed today.

Business owners and marketers are often the people least qualified to communicate what makes their solution unique.  In most cases USP translates into “whatever we think the clients need to hear to be compelled to buy our stuff.”  Why else would anyone ever describe quality, low price, and service as unique?  Everyone says they offer high quality and low prices with great service.

Google today lists 43 million hits for the combination of three words.  The first link is to a Marketingprofs article titled “Quality, Service, Price: Meaningless Claims That Can Drive Customers Away.”  That’s a pretty clear sign this is the wrong direction to go, right?

So, let’s assume that we have a couple hundred people ready to help this company out.  Each of them spends ten minutes developing concepts.  That’s more than 33 hours of time (already an issue for many that follow and rail against crowdsourcing) applied to a task that has almost no chance of helping the client.  It’s the latter part that gets my blood boiling.

Crowdsourcing suppliers should have some level of responsibility for the projects that they allow on their systems, and legally they do.  I’m pretty sure if someone requested a logo that directly copies the Nike Swoosh they’d be shut down by the sites that offer the service.  Similarly, if someone directly asked for “a completely useless name or logo that had no value whatsoever” the providers would step in and stop the debacle since it demeans the service. So why, when a client asks for something that any responsible or experienced marketer would see was folly, would the provider not step in to set things right?

Making it worse in this case is the client’s closing clarification. “We are looking for a slogan that states this in a strong way and will stand out.”

The reasons why crowdsourcing sucks as it exists today are many, but very few of them have anything to do with the core concept itself.  A great idea poorly executed is still a great idea.

Crowdsourcing providers… Step up.  Take some responsibility for the work being requested on your systems.  This is one issue that you can solve without investing in technology.  One person with a degree in marketing sitting in a chair reviewing projects as they come in… that’s enough to fix this.  So why isn’t anyone doing it?

Do crowdsourcing providers have an obligation not to allow their clients to get ripped off, or are they merely inverse flea-markets where buyers say what they want and everyone else tries to fit the description – even if the want is completely illogical or useless?

Incidentally… Where can I buy a lamp made out of matchsticks?


What’s Goin’ On? (Hi crowdSPRING)

Hey gang.  About three weeks worth of updates to make and about five minutes to do it in…

A few goings on of note:

  1. We’ve gone social!  Check out @Thingnamer, @Stokefire, and our shiny new Facebook Page (We could do with a fan or two.)
  2. Stokefire signed our first social media client, so we’re no longer purely old school. We’re even looking at bringing on a social media consultant and providing social media management tools to address the new demand for low-cost marketing options that can be run in-house.
  3. iMAGINE Alexandria (a past Stokefire client, and one on which I serve as a board member now) is going to get some more ink.  This time in the Washington Post.  Should be out this Thursday.  The pattern is developing… once again I play the role of the bald-headed goof in the photo shoot.
  4. Another Stokefire client – Wordnik.com got ink in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  Very cool.  Go check out the site if you like words.  They’ve got lots of them – it’s like a living dictionary.
  5. Still another Stokefire client (launched just a few months ago) is experiencing such rapid growth that his suppliers are calling and asking how the heck he’s doing it. Seriously, this company is gaining customers so fast that we’re pretty sure he’s setting growth records in his industry.  When we get the confirmed figures we’ll post more.
  6. What? Another client finished up?  Yep.  AAOE.net (we didn’t name ’em, but they still rock) launched a conference campaign we developed that has gotten unsolicited feedback that it’s the best in 17 years.  It would be longer, but that’s how long the commenter had been in the industry… We’re shooting for 18 next year.
  7. We’re finishing up projects for a technology company, a staffing franchise, and a loan provider.  More details on those as they come out of the gate.
  8. We’re going to be featured today in a crowdSPRING interview by one of the founders.  Seems we’ve been pretty active in the crowdsourcing community and he figured it was time to check us out.  Thanks Ross!
  9. We’ve had some inquiries by a couple VCs that could lead to us actually getting the crowdsourcing solution we’ve been asking for… because we’d be building it. Here’s to hoping crowdSPRING, GeniusRocket, and/or Kluster end up getting to where we need them to go so we don’t have to.
  10. Oh… we’re not sure, but we think we may just be the most experienced director of crowdsourced branding projects. If you think we’re wrong please let me know.
  11. Stokefire is beginning the gradual transition from a consultancy to an agency model.  Most folks who know us know that we’ve been doing a lot more than naming stuff for the last year and change. That’s led to the development of partnerships and internal capabilities that have just reached a level I’d call mind-blowing.  (Stokefire backed by an astoundingly good creative department with more than 100 people?  Yep.  It looks like it may just happen.  And soon.)
  12. Stokefire HQ is up to three FT employees, with a satellite office in New Hampshire and consultants sprinkled across the continental US.  If things continue as they are today we should be adding more soon.  Welcome aboard, Eric L. Frost!  He’s our new account director.  If you’re a client, prospective client, or past client chances are good you’ll be hearing from him very soon.
  13. We’re just starting an informal search for a kickass creative director that can embrace our vision and stand up to… well… me.  Quite frankly the salary will be lousy, but we do provide full healthcare and some other nifty benefits (PTO, free sodas/coffee, nice computers, flexible hours, 1 block from the Potomac in Old Town Alexandria…).  And since Stokefire is preparing to rule the world you’ll have that going for you.  Other positions also to be considered.

That’s it.

So… yeah.  Nothing much to speak of.

Next update sooner than the last.

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