If you thought Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns were just for board games and oddly ambitious coolers, think again. The Wall Street Journal reports that major companies like GE Appliances and Canon are using crowdfunding to gauge interest in proposed products and gather consumer feedback, which can be used to adjust packaging, marketing and more before the item becomes widely available. Conversely, if not enough people are interested in the product, it may not see the light of day at all.
Consumers are putting their money where their mouth is, too: they often pay close to full price for early access to these goods.
“This is the new focus group,” Indiegogo CEO Becky Center told the Journal. “Instead of paying people to come, people are paying you, and they’re kind of voting with their wallets.”
While the benefits are obvious for companies — gauge market interest and charge people money to give you market insights before a broad launch — some are critical of corporations using tools designed to help small creators and inventors.
Why it matters
This is undoubtedly a clever idea already being used today to put products into the market, like a machine that produces chewable nugget ice, a face-tracking camera and a Transformers toy that measures in at more than 2 feet in height.
For communicators, this data can be solid gold. Understanding what most interests audiences — and what doesn’t — is valuable for more than just production purposes. It can help foster a deeper understanding of what IP or concepts resonate with audiences for messaging across the board.
But making broad decisions based on the opinions of your most ardent fans can carry risks too. It can be difficult to take feedback from the most passionate users and scale it back to audience members who are more neutral or even skeptical.
Additionally, there is risk of backlash as large companies wade into spaces designed for small businesses to gain a foothold.
If you decide to test this concept, use it with the same caution you would any focus group data. At the end of the day, you are the expert in how to deliver messages to audiences. Take in large amounts of data, sort through it critically and return the very best ideas — combined with your expertise.
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