Budweiser fired off its first tweet on Sunday. The beer giant asked consumers to name “this year’s Super Bowl star,” its new Clydesdales foal. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, wants consumers to vote for who gets the Coke in its “Coke Chase” foray. And, PepsiCo wants consumers to send in photos to be shown during the Beyoncé-led halftime show. Meanwhile, Doritos’ consumer-created “Crash the Super Bowl” ads are back.
We’ve got four of the largest marketers in the world trying a variation of the same marketing/public relations tactic. It begs the question: Has crowdsourced marketing hit its pinnacle?
According to some experts, the answer is a definitive yes. “It’s probably as big as it’s going to get,” said Todd Wasserman, marketing and advertising editor at Mashable. “Personally, I think it’s been done so much that it’s no longer that notable.”
Crowdsourcing hit it big in 2006 when Doritos invited fans to crash the Super Bowl with homemade videos. Many, many brands followed suit, including vitaminwater, which asked consumers to create their new flavor in 2009. Most recently, “Hawaii Five-0”asked viewers to pick the killer at the end of the show.
“Everyone is waving the same flag. Crowdsourcing is like everything else marketers get involved with — they end up f—— it up,” said John Palumbo, president of The Big Heads Network, which taps a diverse group of people for product development ideation. “Marketers have simplified the idea of open collaboration so much that it loses all of its sophistication. All you’ve got left is a PR stunt.”
But is it a successful PR stunt? In simplest terms, yes, for some, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a loyalty marketing consultancy. “There’s always a hard-core group of people who really care about things like getting their photo on the Pepsi halftime show. It’s a small group though … Everyone is going to get their 15 megabytes of fame. After that, it’s all over.”
As for Doritos, which has stuck with the formula for a seventh year, Wasserman said the quality is all that matters. “Consumers really don’t care one way or the other. I think a lot of people see the Doritos Super Bowl ad and don’t know they are crowdsourced. They know it’s good or bad.”
That’s not to say new tricks won’t be tried. Stunts like allowing people to pick a movie’s ending live in a theater or creating a crowdsourced video game aren’t likely that far off, said Palumbo. But the risk is always run that you’ll end up with the next “Snakes on a Plane.” Arguably the first crowdsourced movie, “Snakes on a Plane” ended up generating a lot more hype than box-office dollars. “Everyone is going to use crowdsourcing until the next PR hook happens. After that, it will be just another tactic,” Palumbo said.
It’s also important to remember that courting consumer opinion isn’t a new idea. After all, isn’t the “Hawaii Five-0” you-pick-the-ending ploy really just a variation of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book? “Technology has just made it easier, said Passikoff. “You have higher levels of engagement. But, you’ve also got higher levels of desperation as this thing ratchets up. You often have no sense of what crowdsourcing actually does.”
Whether these campaigns succeed or fail on Sunday will largely lie on brand marketers’ (and their bosses’) expectations. However, one thing is for certain. Consumers are expected to do a lot more for Super Bowl XLVII than pony up for their office pool and order chicken wings. After all, they’ve got pictures to email to PepsiCo, snack-food commercials to be created and baby horse names to think up.