Crowdsourcing…Embracing the change.

A few months back, when I wrote my first article on Crowdsourcing I was motivated by my personal sense of outrage. I had received an email offering me the chance to enter a competition to submit an entire campaign layout (from strategy to creative) for Redbull.

My prize should I be so fortunate as to win this “august competition”was the handsome amount of $3000.00. My immediate response was…WTF $ 3000.00 ? For a full on Redbull campaign!…You must be joking.

But they weren’t… I didn’t enter… someone did.

Response to the article was lukewarm to say the least, most creatives defended their turf pointing out that quality would always outperform price and then went on at length to explain formal education, colour theory, design theory experience etc as clear and obvious advantages that merit a premium price to the client.

Obviously in spite of the calamitous impact stock photography has had on the photographic profession (ask any of your camera happy friends’) we in the design industry believed ourselves  invulnerable to commoditization.

Some of us continue to persist in this wishful thinking.

Good luck.

A recent post by a design colleague states that it’s too late “The cat is already out of the bag” I agree and like all bags full of cats you’re going to have a devil of a time trying to get them all back in.

So now what?

There are several possible options;

1.Shut them down: an unlikely scenario demanding a united, forceful and collective voice capable of persuading legislators that it’s in the common interest to shut down what is in effect a far reaching business model. To be effective this would need to be accomplished on a global scale. The cost in time, money and commitment suffice it to say, is such that we’d have a better chance of electing the tooth fairy as the first universal ruler.

2.Man the barricades: stand shoulder to shoulder, forming unions and labour groups, ready to strike and deprive business of the wealth of our talent and knowledge. Demanding better rates, protectionism and working conditions. Again on a global scale. Hmmm, the most likely candidates to lead such a revolt would be people like AIGA or Icograda or other national and international organisations who to my knowledge have remained ominously quiet.

3.Beat them at their own Game:

Now there is an idea with merit. How about embracing the new business model, how about raising the stakes, how about using our knowledge, skills and talents to beat them flat out in the crowdsourcing game? How about out-gunning them at every turn. How about creating a value added proposition that they can’t compete against.

This is not a battle that can be won by traipsing out our degrees, diplomas and stellar portfolios, this is a battle about money in someone’s pocket. If two lawyers  can beat us up in our own backyard… we’re a disgrace. We need to up the level of our game and outwit them at theirs. When they find that it’s not a profitable enterprise, they will roll up the carpets and go off in search of juicier markets to plunder.

Ok down to brass tacks.

1.Crowdsourcing is here to stay as a new business model, a new paradigm . It is not going to go away..accept it.

2.In order to win at this we must embrace this new business model…wholeheartedly. We know more about graphic design than any other group of people…we know the industry, we know the players we know what works and what doesn’t. We need to harness this expertise in a constructive positive way to create an unassailable competitive advantage.

3.Individually and collectively we need to bring more value to our clients tables, make ourselves indispensable, become a tribe, linchpins…actively seek out ways that we can delight our clients in remarkable ways. C’mon people, creating compelling messages, inventing new perspectives and selling ideas is what we do… no one does it better than us. We need to turn this focus on our own industry and find ways to kick the game up to the next level. We need to think about our business’s in new ways..we need to be champions not victims.

Let me give you a case in point. My own example.

I live in South Africa. I work with some enormously talented and well paid people.

Many of you see me and my team as a threat?

Are we?

Or are we a wonderful opportunity? In a global, technology driven economy those who see me as a threat are not going to make it in this new paradigm. Those who see me as an opportunity will thrive and expand.

Why? Because I’m not offering a lower quality of product, I’m not using inferior design talent nor paying them peanuts. By virtue of the fact that our exchange rate( and no other reason) is considerably lower in your favour I can create an equal product for 60-70% of your price increasing both your profits and mine.

Can you think how this might be an advantage to you and your clients?

Would you suddenly let go all of your existing staff?

Heavens no, why? They have on the ground knowledge and expertise, someone in Nigeria doesn’t

But you might consider taking on work that hasn’t been profitable but at lower design costs could be?

You might find that with more time available you can expand into other areas?

You might find that certain work is more cost efficiently contracted out allowing you to concentrate on delivering exceptional quality in other areas?

How might having an international reach enable you to offer your “A” list clients a better service? Etc etc etc.

My apologies this is beginning to sound like a sales pitch which is not my intention, at all.

What I’m trying to say is, there are thousands of talented people around the globe they are not going to go away, they are going to continue to look at ways to use exchange rates (among others) as a way to create competitive advantage, they are working for crowd sourcing clients and they are not going to stop. You can fight against them or bring them into the fold as an asset before someone else does. The choice is up to you either you put the money in your pocket or the Crowdspring people do.

Whichever the case, the bottom line is that Mr. Sing in India or Ms. Khumalo in Africa is not going to go away because we feel threatened. And trying to match them dollar to Rupee or Rand is suicidal.

Finally to wrap up part 2.

A closer look at ourselves.

In what ways can you as a designer and or studio owner step up your own game?

  • When was the last time you took your 3 best clients and their marketing teams out to lunch? Not to tell them what you do but expressly and intentionally to find out where they are going , what are their plans, what are they excited about…how can you help them to  succeed?
  • When was the last time you went out of your way to make graphic design an important part of their lives?
  • When was the last time you set up a breakfast presentation at your cost to inform your clients of the latest social media design trends (or any other salient topic) and show them how it might propel their brands to new heights?
  • Sent them a really useful white paper?
  • GAVE them a custom designed, high quality calendar showing examples of the best work you’ve done for their brand…that they can give away to their clients as freebies?
  • Sent them a creative rationale, explaining what their competition was up to creatively,  why it was or wasn’t working and how you can help them outsmart them?

The list goes on and on and indeed in the next section I’d like to start talking about what value ads we might deliver to our clients that no crowdsourcing company can compete with. I’d really like to hear your ideas and thoughts..lets work together on this and beat them at their own game.

You can embrace this new paradigm, grow, expand and be more profitable.

Oh…you might want go give some thought about how crowdsourcing practitioners might react, if we start to up the level of the game?

Xross that line.

Cheers Steven.

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2 Responses to Crowdsourcing…Embracing the change.

  1. darkfields says:

    Gray-Haired visionary indeed. 😛

  2. I’m really enjoying this website of yours, I think its a fantastic idea and you raise some interesting points.

    drop me a line sometime

    love ya


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