I was supposed to have a great, full-length post for all of you today, but it turns out I was taken for a ride and my source was fake.
It’s a true shame; it was a story about a major company (unnamed; they’re probably catching enough flack for this already) who launched a campaign asking users of their website to design a print ad for the chance to win a trip. Whoever developed this prank, or whatever it is, set up an entire site for submitting, viewing, and voting on these ads.
But as the submissions trickled it, it was clear that they weren’t going in the direction they were supposed to. This unnamed company has some pretty shady business practices, and the vast majority of the submitted ads called these practices into question in ways that wouldn’t be considered “kind” or “not heavy-handed”.
It would have been brutal if it was true. Imagine a company blindly launching a campaign without being aware of the general populace’s opinion of them. And imagine the campaign entirely involved having people plaster whatever message they want on a professional-looking ad with your company’s name and logo. It would have been a fiasco.
Unfortunately, the campaign was created not by the company, but by some outside force that opposed their politics. Further digging into the website proved it was all subtly tongue-in-cheek, designed in such a way that it would only reveal itself as fake if you gave it more than a cursory glance.
So why was I taken in at first? Because this company wouldn’t have been the first one to make a mistake like this. A big aspect of crowdsourcing that continues to keep some companies away is the lack of control and privacy. When you host a contest like this, it does indeed become exceedingly important what the public’s opinion of your company is. If your company is controversial, crowdsourcing will provide you with messages that promote both sides of the issue. Unfortunately, there is usually one side that yells louder, and that’s the dissenters.
So is there a lesson we can learn from this? Crowdsourcing is best suited to companies that already have a large positive following. Will it completely stop situations like this? No, but a lot of consumers on your side certainly helps support the messages you’re actually trying to promote. Conversely, if your company is afraid of what the populace has to say about them… well, maybe they should reconsider how clean their hands are.