Sneaker Company Experiments with Filtering the Crowd

Published Nov-13-12

A sneaker company throws down the gauntlet by challenging the crowd to come up with a new brand identity in competition with its creative agency.

Simple Shoes, United States

The Story:

Sneaker Company Experiments with Filtering the Crowd Simple Shoes is a Santa Barbara sneaker company that in 2010 experimented with a crowdsourcing contest that challenged freelance creative professionals to outperform a creative agency.

'Simple Shoes Identity Design Showdown: You vs. Our Agency' invited the design community at large to come up with a new brand identity for Simple.

Ideas Showdown

"Simple has never really done things according to the status quo, so when we started thinking about giving our brand identity a facelift for our 20th anniversary, we wanted to shake things up a bit," said Will Pennartz, Simple's marketing manager. "We also want to see what the people who wear our shoes would come up with."

What sparked off this open innovation initiative is that the company was wondering whether the agency model was the only way to go. So it kicked around a few ideas and came up with the crowdsourcing contest.

The competition was different from many others in that the crowd was filtered. Designers had first to submit samples from their portfolios that exemplified their best work and more 600 people responded to the call. From these submissions the company selected the designers it wanted to work on the challenge, initially slated as five.

After signing a consulting agreement the designers were able to get down to work designing a new brand identity for the company. And they were awarded $2500 each just for responding to the brief.

The finalists were due to individually compete against One Trick Pony, the agency that Simple usually employs.

Contest Ceases

However, the competition did not come to fruition as after 20 years of shoe-making the company ceased distributing. An announcement said it was taking a vacation for some ‘creative re-energizing’.

The competition was hosted on and it ended in October 2010 with only four winners selected, according the contest’s webpage.

Though this particular crowdsourcing challenge didn't reach its conclusion it was nonetheless an interesting experiment, and the results would have been fascinating and highly informative.

Bold Experiment

The approach that Simple took - of filtering the crowd - was a sound one, for a number of reasons.

Even if you have a highly engaged and passionate community that is positively fizzing and popping with creativity, there is a danger that you will receive too many ideas. That may sound counter-intuitive but ideas are ten a penny and many crowdsourcing participants submit shallow concepts that haven’t been fully formed or thought through.

That places a colossal burden on the company that’s hosting the competition as they will have to expend time and resources going through every single submission.
There’s just isn't a cheap or simple way to examine them all. And there is also a danger that a really neat idea might slip through the net.

Benefits of Filtering the Crowd

But by pre-selecting a crowd - just a handful of highly talented, creative and innovative people - a company can increase its chances of receiving the outcome it wants and in a lean and cost-effective way. It can do this by focusing and directing the crowd, but without imposing its will or telling participants what they should be thinking or doing.

There is nothing wrong with the crowdsourcing concept, it’s just that many companies go about it the wrong way, caught up in the rush of excitement of receiving a lorry load of ideas to a problem it wants to solve.

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