Oreos & Coke: The Marketing Power of Crowds

In a recent edition of Harvard Business Review, Julia Kirby looked at the future of advertising in light of the current internet advertising revolution and talked about the virtues of ‘collaborating with the crowd’.

Kirby said that ‘it’s easy to forget how long companies have been inviting ideas from the crowd’. She referenced the film ‘The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio’ (which is based on a book of the same name).

The book/film is set in 1950’s America and the authors mother Evelyn kept food on the table and a roof over her head by ‘dreaming up jingles, tag lines, and ad headlines and winning contests run by brands of the time with her handiwork’.

As the film illustrates, 60+ years ago marketers realized that crowds of people could offer powerful ideas and insight. Julia says ‘now that the business world has rediscovered the concept, most people celebrate crowd-sourcing as a way to get fresher, better ideas’.

It’s a no-brainer when you think about it; nobody understands brands better than consumers and if marketers can tap into the collective knowledge of these consumers then they’re left with some very powerful content and data.

Power to the People Examples:


We loved the ‘daily twist’ campaign by Oreo Cookies. As they were approaching their 100th anniversary they ‘launched a 100-day series of cookie designs pegged to each day’s news’.

The agency behind the campaign says that they ‘kicked things off with a simple visual of a six-layer rainbow Oreo cookie. The caption read: “Pride.”

Oreo then invited the ‘crowd’ to suggest their own ideas to honour particular holidays, news stories or national days. Over the duration of the campaign they covered all sorts, from the Mars Rover landing to the rise of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video’.

Coca Cola

Another big brand that successfully harnessed the potential of crowd-sourcing last year was Coca Cola.

In 2012 they asked their 50 million + Facebook fans to suggest an ‘invention, cause or social app’ that could spread happiness. Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola’s chief marketing officer, says the initiative extended the brands’ wider pledge to bring ‘simple moments of happiness to people around the world every day’.

Coca Cola crowd-sourced ideas from their hefty social following via a dedicated Facebook app and the campaign really helped them as a brand to deepen their relationships with fans (and build an impressive opt-in e-mail database whilst they were at it).

Of course, crowd-sourcing can perhaps go a little too far. Last year Marissa Mayer’s (the new Yahoo CEO) pregnancy caused a media frenzy when it was revealed that she was actually crowd-sourcing her baby’s name! Just in case you were wondering, she went with Macallister Bogue.

Now we’re not suggesting that you go that far, we’re not even suggesting that you consult the ‘crowd’ on every marketing decision that your business makes, but hopefully today’s post has given you a couple of ideas as to how crowd-sourcing might work for your own business one day.

If crowd-sourcing is a tool that you’d like to employ then what better way to ask for ideas than by using an online survey tool? Using a tool like ours, you can reach out to the ‘crowd’ and ask for feedback on new logos, campaigns and slogans; you can even ask respondents to submit their own original ideas that might help to shape your marketing campaigns of the future.

Give it a go and get in touch, we’d love to hear how you get on 🙂

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