Crowdsourcing and the Silly Rabbit

Aug 02 2010

In my role at Mambo I have the distinct pleasure of meeting marketing executives from a wide variety of organizations – from non-profit to B2B to consumer brands.  And almost without fail, each one will stop me in mid-sentence as I’m waxing on about the benefits of social media, online marketing and the like, and say “what does that word mean”?  That’s when I check my jargoned-tongue at the door and remember that I am supposed to be a communicator, an educator; but if my words are laced with industry slang that is indecipherable unless you’re an avid reader of the IAB SmartBrief or Jeremiah Owyang, I might as well be speaking in tongues.  And really, that’s just not very helpful is it?

So this became the inspiration for our Jargon Dictionary.  The Mambo Team will pick often-used but often-misunderstood terms in our industry and try to distill them down into the very basic, and helpful, definition and include an example that just about anybody can understand.

Our first word is CROWDSOURCING.  I love this word because it’s a relatively new term, first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”, but it is such an OLD concept.  The official Wikipedia definition is:

Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.

Do you remember the insatiable silly rabbit in the Trix Cereal campaigns that spent his day trying to trick kids into giving him a bowl of cereal?  In 1976 General Mills ran a crowdsourcing campaign to find out if kids (and maybe some silly adults) wanted the rabbit to actually EAT a bowl of cereal, or if we enjoyed this relentless torture and preferred the tension in our lives.  The results, collected by mail (with a stamp!), were overwhelming and the silly rabbit was rewarded with a big bowl of high fructose corn syrup-laden Trix.

That’s crowdsourcing.  It’s been done since the dawn of marketing because a good marketer doesn’t forget who is number one – the audience.  And anytime you can elicit, provoke or compel an audience to tell you what it wants, FOR FREE, then you should do it!  The reason this term is so often used now is because crowdsourcing doesn’t take a million dollar TV campaign to work, it just takes asking the question of your audience, your fans, your followers.  Odds are, they will appreciate that you asked.

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Siouxsie Jennett
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