Should you crowdsource even if you’re only gonna get crap?

angry men“We’re gonna get crap. I don’t want crap associated with a brand I work on.”  That was the reaction I got this morning from one creative director after proposing to an agency’s management team that they should crowdsource a version of everything they create.

I wasn’t recommending a contest or declaring that some random consumer might generate a bigger idea or better execution than the agency, though that’s always a possibility.  Instead I was simply suggesting that one of the best ways to extend an idea or campaign was to invite everyone out there to create their own version of it.

Heck, they’re going to do it anyway.  They’re making videos about Harley Davidson, Budweiser, McDonalds, HP even before anyone ever asks them to. Granted some of those are passion brands, but there are people passionate about almost everything.

And guess what?  They want to create. They’re buying millions of Flip video cameras. And they’re uploading 20 plus hours of video to YouTube every single minute.

So why not focus them? Inspire them? Organize them? Take any TV campaign or brand idea and after it’s produced invite your community, customers, prospects to create their own version of it, maybe for fun, maybe for fame, maybe for rewards in the form of money or product. With a little luck you could end up with hundreds, if not thousands of new expressions. You might endear yourself to the community just for acknowledging they’re entitled to a say. And without a doubt you’ll learn something about how much or how little people love your brand and what it stands for. (If no one joins in you have a real problem.)

Interestingly when I’ve read through scripts or looked at videos from crowdsourcing projects, even if the videos themselves were lame, the learning and insight about how a customer described a product or related its role in his life was incredibly revealing.

Plus, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  You get crap or content that criticizes you. The former can’t hurt, and the latter’s going to happen anyway.

So what do you think?  Should we invite the crowd to join us in everything we make?  Or keep them at arm’s length hoping they’ll be a cooperative audience?

Photo:  Robert Couse-Baker