5 Examples of Companies Innovating with Crowdsourcing

Posted by Graham Buchanan on Jan 11, 2018 5:34:00 AM

There is an abundance of options available to organizations when it comes to crowdsourcing - that is, putting tasks or questions out to a large group for their input.

The group, or ‘crowd’, could be made up of citizens, consumers, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, specialists, or start-ups. Objectives could be brand awareness, demand validation, customer or citizen engagement, user-centered product development, building an ecosystem of innovators, or tackling unsolved problems.

From this vast pool of possibilities, we’ve picked out five major companies that are using different forms of crowdsourcing to their advantage.

PepsiCo: On multiple occasions, PepsiCo has solicited input from customers on new potato chip flavors for their Lay’s brand (or Walker’s in the UK). Their first ‘Do Us a Flavor’ campaign was launched in 2012 in response to the brand’s declining market share amongst millennials. Over 14 million submissions were received, from which ‘Cheesy Garlic Bread’ was chosen as the winner. The new flavor contributed to an 8% increase in sales in the three months following its launch.

LEGO: Through the LEGO Ideas platform, users are able to submit ideas for new LEGO sets and vote and provide feedback on those submitted by others. Ideas with over 10,000 votes are reviewed by LEGO and if selected, the submitter works with LEGO team to make it a reality and receives royalties on sales. Not only does the platform support idea generation at LEGO but allows them to validate the demand for those ideas. Notable creations from the platform include the ‘Big Bang Theory’ and the Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ sets.

Elanco: In response to the growing threat of anti-microbial resistance, Elanco released their eight-point stewardship plan for ensuring long-term access to antibiotics for people and animals. A key component of this was their Alternatives to Animal Antibiotics Grand Challenge Program, which invited researchers, academics and start-ups from around the world to submit their solutions to specific problems or needs. Speaking about the Program, Arron Schacht, VP of R&D at Elanco, said: “As an R&D company, Elanco is committed to advancing the very best ideas.  Crowdsourcing ensures we are pursuing every possible avenue for those ideas.”

Unilever: In 2010, Unilever set out their “Sustainable Living Plan”, which aimed to reduce the company’s environmental impact and improve the health, well-being and livelihoods of people around the world. To assist them in the pursuit of these goals, Unilever launched The Unilever Foundry, which allows start-ups and innovators too respond to briefs such as developing a connected ice cream cabinet. Third party “Scouts” review submissions and forward those that are shortlisted to the Unilever team. Winners are selected following an in-person pitch to an expert panel and go on to co-create pilots with Unilever. Success stories include Mobile Movies, which involves local agents organizing free film screenings in rural communities in order to “empower informed attitudes to hygiene, establish a stable supply chain to meet the needs of rural communities…and create jobs…”

Amazon: Amazon Studios has become a disruptive force in the world of television & film production. In part, this is down to their open approach – turning to the crowd at multiple points of the production funnel. At the top end, Amazon Studios allows anyone to submit scripts and concept videos. Then through Amazon Preview, an invite-only community provides feedback on concepts, storyboards and test footage. Finally, they have ‘Pilot Season’, whereby users can watch pilots for free and vote on which should have a full season commissioned. While data is limited, it seems opening up what was traditionally limited to boardroom execs and focus groups has been a success, with two of Amazon’s biggest hits – Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle – coming through ‘Pilot Season’.


Through initiatives like these, organizations have been able to gain diverse perspectives, perform functions more cost effectively and elevate their users from consumers to active contributors and participants in the business.

You can read more success stories and crowdsourcing examples on our Case Studies page.

This post was originally posted on October 18, 2013 and updated on January 11, 2018.

Topics: Innovation Insights

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