Mountain Dew crowdsourcing project goes off the rails

Crowdsourcing is a growing trend in the research industry, garnering praise for facilitating true collaboration and for engaging fans and consumers by letting their voices be heard – unfiltered. And while crowdsourcing has worked for Ben & Jerry’s, vitaminwater and Jones Soda, it’s also been a colossal failure for others (I’m thinking Kraft’s vegemite offering, iSnack 2.0).

However, all past foibles in crowdsourcing seem to pale in comparison to the epic failure of Mountain Dew’s “Dub the Dew” contest, which invited fans to suggest names that other fans could vote on for a new green apple-flavored soft drink. Unfortunately, Mountain Dew learned the hard way to be careful what you wish for.

According to James Lileks’ August 13th blog for the Star Tribune, which features screencaps of the contest, the site said: There’s a NEW Dew! It’s mean, green … and you can name it. The flavor facts: Classic Mtn Dew with green apple attitude. Think you have a winning name for this brand new Dew? Put it up for a vote!

Instead of creative, appealing, genuine suggestions from adoring Dew drinkers, a group of Internet pranksters (trolls) decided to have a little fun and dominate (rickroll) the contest with offensive and downright disgusting Dew names. The joke of a contest allegedly went viral on forum sites Reddit and 4chan, propelling names like “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong,” “Diabeetus” and “Gushing Granny” to the top.

The site and the contest have since been shut down.

This could be a manifestation of groupthink and the immorality of groups compared to individuals … or it could just be a tasteless joke (a really, really tasteless joke). If one project could go so horribly wrong and be so easily manipulated (rickrolled) by online subversives (trolls) that it needed to be canceled entirely, it raises the question if crowdsourcing simply gives too much control to the consumer – or rather, puts too much faith in the consumer. Charged with what could have been a fun task, can fans appreciate it? Can they take it seriously?

I also wonder how much of this had to do with the contest being for Mountain Dew. Somehow, this crowdsourcing snafu would seem more surprising to me had it been for, say, A&W Root Beer or Snapple, as Mountain Dew fans are famously marketed to as an adventure-seeking, extreme-sports-loving, rowdy cohort.

What sort of safeguards can marketers and researchers put into place to avoid situations like this? Is it still safe to give fans the floor?

This entry was posted in Brainstorming Research, Brand and Image Research, Concept Research, Market Research Humor, Name Development Research, Product Research, Social Media and Marketing Research. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mountain Dew crowdsourcing project goes off the rails

  1. Pingback: The Immorality Of Laughing At Corporate PR | Irregular Times

  2. Pat Kidd says:

    If anything, this is a good argument for keeping NPD crowdsourcing in a relatively controlled environment (e.g. online community).

  3. David says:

    In terms of creating a new name, it’s undoubtedly a failure. In terms of creating word of mouth and press, it’s at least a partial success (assuming you subscribe to the “no such thing as bad press” philosophy). As was mentioned, for a brand like Mtn Dew, it probably didn’t hurt their image that much, if at all.

    It was risky, but at the same time there was a lot of upside potential had it worked. For the right brand, that’s probably worth the risk. Similar to market research, when you take the chance sometimes you fail and sometimes you come out with some great insight that a “safe” method may not have unveiled.