Ben and Jerry’s Scoop on Crowdsourcing

Published Oct-22-11

Breakthrough:
An international crowdsourcing competition to discover a new flavor of ice cream.

Company:
Ben and Jerry's, United States

The Story:

Ben and Jerry’s Scoop on Crowdsourcing Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's know a thing or two about creating popular flavors, and is well known for viewing its customers as co-creators, valuing and taking note of many of their suggestions and feedback.

In fact two of its popular sellers Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby came from fans’ suggestions.

"Many of the best all time selling flavours of Ben and Jerry’s have been suggestions from our customers," said Ben Cohen, co-founder of the ice cream giant. "So I guess this (the crowdsourcing competition) is a continuation of that."

Delicious Recipes

The 'Do the World a Flavor?' international crowdsourcing contest asked customers to create their very own flavors. It ran in 17 countries and its specific aims were to raise awareness of fair trade ingredients and the ice cream maker’s plans to use them in all of its ice creams by 2013.

Crowdsourcing competitions hosted by food and drinks companies are an ideal way to increase engagement by giving consumers more of a say in what they want to see on supermarket shelves. That in turn is going to make them more likely to dive into their purses to buy those products that they feel a special affinity to.

The rise of the Internet and social network and marketing tools means that customers are not only consuming products but having a hand in their design and development. Companies that engage in this kind of product development are tapping into a new kind of power that consumers wield.

Allowing customers to come up with ideas and seeing the best ones rise to the top can also help to streamline the planning and decision-making process. This can put an end to management teams fumbling around in the dark trying to determine what to come up with next to appeal to core consumers or new markets.

Crowdsourcing vs Market Research

The crowdsourcing approach is more powerful than traditional market research that companies engage in, and it can be a lot cheaper to manage. It uses an undefined public rather than smaller groups of pre-selected consumers and those who care enough to give up some of their time to take part in a hands-on competition are just the kind of consumers that every organisation wants.

Ben and Jerry’s crowdsourcing competition was open for six weeks and during that time special competition websites received close to 100,000 submissions, with 10,000 coming from the US alone.

Participants visiting the company’s website in their countries had to click on the “creation station” and then select from base ice cream options, chunk options and swirl options to create their original ice cream.

Success Tastes Sweet

A judging panel selected a First Prize winner from each participating country and flew them out to the Dominican Republic where they created their concoctions for the judges to taste and adjudicate.

The competition was won by Wisconsin resident Toni Gunnison who created “Almond Delight” a caramel ice cream with almond pralines and a caramel swirl. To avoid trademark issues the company renamed it “Dulce Almond”.

In interviews following the competition company spokespeople reiterated their support of crowdsourcing projects as a great way for brands to engage their audience.

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