How far is too far?

Digital consumers are being given more decision-making power than ever but this is not without consequences.

8 months ago   •   2 min read

By Angelique Tzanakakis

One thing I love about the internet is its ability to create a space where truly everyone can communicate with one another. Social media sites like Twitter have become social spaces, not unlike a coffee shop or the water cooler at the office. Brands have realised the power of these spaces and occasionally crowdsource ideas.

There have been successful crowdsourcing campaigns such as Lay’s “do us a flavour” where you suggest new flavours. However, sometimes these efforts turn sour quickly. Today, we will consider McDonald’s failed attempt and see what can we learn from this.

Giving Power to the Customer

As I have spoken about previously, the new age of consumer values and expects personalised and customer-centric services from businesses. With the internet, they are no longer limited to the options offered by local shops. Brands have realised this and are rethinking how they gain that competitive edge.

However, giving the power to customers through crowdsourcing competitions is a dangerous task. The outcome of such competitions will not be positive unless it’s moderated correctly. Let’s take a look at McDonald’s 2016 create your own burger competition.

McDonald’s New Zealand had just launched an in-store touch screen and thought the best way to celebrate this was to host a competition where people could create their own burgers which people could vote for.

Surprising nobody, people submitted the first thing that comes to mind. There was no careful thought put into these kinds of entries and the instructions were completely ignored. This meant that not only was McDonald’s webpage littered with poor quality (and often obscene) entries, the whole campaign was derailed.

To give the team at McDonald’s credit, they did include a profanity filter but this was just a minor inconvenience for the public. Here are some examples of how giving the public an unmoderated platform can backfire tremendously:

Final thoughts

2016 may seem like ancient history but not much has changed with regards to online behaviour. While McDonald’s may have had sincere intentions, its rapid descent into mayhem was inevitable. There are limits to how much power customers can be given before they completely derail the entire activity.

Giving customers the most personalised experience is a delicate task. You want them to feel like they’re in control without letting them ruin your brand with obscene and offensive content.

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