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30 Sep 2009

POSTED BY DJackson IN General | Sep 30th, 2009 | 4 responses

Customer-driven or customer-leading?

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Is the growing trend of using social media to crowdsource product development a clever use of digital technology, or is it being used as an excuse for lazy marketing?

In a recent “Social Media Insider” column on MediaPost, Catherine Taylor dissects VitaminWater’s efforts to use its Facebook fan page to get customers to pick its next flavour and which vitamins to include.

When you’ve got 475,000 people who’ve declared they’re a fan of your product, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d want to tap into their opinions. But Catherine advises that companies using crowdsourcing in this way need to be careful that they’re not letting a vocal but unrepresentative group make crucial marketing decisions.  She also points out that a Facebook group isn’t the same thing as a focus group, and warns against using crowdsourcing just because it’s trendy.

I’ve got another concern about crowdsourcing – you need to make sure you don’t use it as an excuse to stop thinking. Social media has shown how important (and easy) it is for companies to listen to their customers.  However, a growing body of research shows that in today’s customer-centred universe, the most successful companies are the ones that not only listen to their customers, but also anticipate their needs and offer them something they didn’t realise they would want.

Do you think if people had voted 10 years ago on what features they wanted in a portable music device, that we’d have ended up with the iPod? It was a success because it was more than what customers had imagined.

Management and marketing guru Peter Drucker said that, “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.” Innovation is not just letting your customers vote on what product they want. True innovation is surprising them with something they never thought of.


s2mLogoANIMDavid Jackson is managing director and principal talent broker for S2M Digital, www.s2m.com.au a recruitment agency specialising in the digital space.


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