Never too old to start ‘youthsourcing’

youthsourcingI think it’s safe to say that many of the best product innovations do not come out of corporate research and development labs but from the people who actually use the products. Nowadays, it seems like everyone wants the masses to solve their problems, improve their business, and guide them on what to do next. Thought leaders on the topic of crowdsourcing (many of them small business owners) could have predicted this boom in mass collaboration at the onset of the open-source software movement. Why? Because many already had begun trying to implement this tactic with their own projects.

Then, something amazing happened. Seemingly overnight, some guys started Threadless with $1,000 in seed money to develop a system that lets people feature T-shirt designs they created. The owners scaled it with community voting, allowed people to buy said T-shirt, and, in return, created a multimillion-dollar business with countless new fans. The term crowdsourcing wasn’t in play at the time, but the idea of it was. It’s just that no one had seen the small guy use technology and an online community so efficiently before.

The thought barrier that only large companies with a lot of money and resources could succeed at leveraging consumers was obliterated when Threadless came along. Their story was the energy companies needed to get moving again.

Co-creating with youth is important because today’s youth expect to be heard, and the brand that gives them a voice wins. The brand that takes that voice and hands them a microphone and an audience creates a rock star of a fan. The beauty of youthsourcing is this: It is never too late to get started. From R&D to the point-of-sale, crowdsourcing with youth (a.k.a. youthsourcing) can take place anywhere in the cycle of your business. It all depends on the problem you are trying to solve.

Youthsourcing harnesses the power of your most passionate young fans by putting them in the driver’s seat when your company is facing a challenge or has a specific problem to solve. The first steps you need to take before you start youthsourcing are to understand what it is and what it isn’t. Youthsourcing can take on many shapes and forms and be facilitated in a multitude of ways.  There is no real roadmap for doing it “right,” but if your efforts begin to look a lot like a focus group or survey, you’ll know you’re doing it wrong.

The best co-creation comes from people who are passionate about the task at hand. Whether you are addressing an issue with your product or service, forging a new cause, tackling a new design, or developing a brand extension, your biggest fans will guide you.

This passion from young fans radiates out because you are giving them a platform and an audience for their ideas and talents. It’s also about something else, though, and this is a big one: Youthsourcing is motivated by preservation. Simply put, true fans do not want to see their favorite brands go away. They want to see them improved and will gladly give their time and energy to make that happen. In some cases, their identity as a person may even depend on it.

A podcast about Youthsourcing can be played here:

For tips on how to youthsource, click here. To tap into our network of college students for product feedback, click here.

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.

One thought on “Never too old to start ‘youthsourcing’

  1. I absolutely agree that genuine brand fans are the best source for any brand to improve products/services, introduce line extensions and suggestions in general!!

    For instance, when we are looking at stealth marketing tactics which often also focus on influential teenagers who act as brand pushers (mostly via social networking sites in order to ‘promote’ a brand) history has shown that this technique is likely to backfire resulting in negative word-of-mouth which as we are all aware of can be RATHER damaging for a brand!!!!

    However, ‘youthsourcing’ from my personal point of view is very useful to genuinely nourish and grow a brand!! Therefore, I believe that ‘youthsourcing’ will definitely play a major role for brands especially as this audience is very active on the world wide web!!

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