Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 8.35.59 AMCrowdsourcing is everywhere…yet just how effective is it?

Laurel Sutton’s recent article on Fast Company states that “Crowdsourcing works for funding creative projects or hiring someone to paint your bedroom but she believes that you’re asking for trouble if you use it to name a product.” In theory, crowdsourcing creativity sounds the ultimate win-win situation, providing unlimited access to the world’s inspired minds. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…Cases in point include:

–  iStockPhoto shook up the image industry, creating an affordable, reliable photo source, where even amateur shutterbugs could contribute. But quantity doesn’t mean quality, and as the classic design principle goes, less is more.

– Just recently, you could contribute names in official contests for a studious gnome, a river otter pup, a historic lawn in Brooklyn, or a Playstation game. With naming contests, the sponsoring companies usually get responses very quickly and cheaply. They’re a boon for building consensus and buzz (witness Lay’s “Do Us a Flavour” contest), getting instant feedback on product ideas, and involving your customers in your brand

– Anyone remember what happened when Mountain Dew asked customers to name its new green apple drink? An attempt to build brand loyalty turned into a PR fiasco, as customers clicked amok, voting for “Diabeetus” and “Gushing Granny.”

– Or, when Kraft Down Under solicited names for a spreadable version of Vegemite, settling on the bland name iSnack 2.0 from some 48,000 submissions

Sutton concludes “that if you’re looking to generate word of mouth or crowd-please, then by all means, run that contest. But if you’re looking to create a name that stands out from the crowd, don’t follow the crowd. Dare to name alone–or with a trusted partner”