Four Great Examples of Global Crowdsourcing


Harnessing the power of the crowd is an important approach for globalization. One of the key trends within the localization industry is the growing demand for crowdsourcing, also known as community translation. You can read more about this trend in Welocalize CEO Smith Yewell’s blog post, Top 3 Disruptive Localization Trends for 2014.

In the localization industry, crowdsourcing is different from traditional translation processes. It is considered collaborative community-based translation. Welocalize uses various forms of crowdsourcing to assist with crowd-dependent projects.

What are the origins of crowdsourcing and how it has been used to generate some of the best campaigns and ideas in both business and the wider world? 

Crowdsourcing is popular technique for bringing people together to inspire, create and solve problems. The use goes far beyond the translation world. It is a way of funding businesses, donating to charity and driving social change. The social phenomenon has been adopted across a surfeit of industries from fast food to football, as well as acting as a tool for small community campaigns like aiding police investigations and even big financial campaigns like trying to buy the NBA basketball team the LA Clippers.

Millions of consumers, usually on social media, are engaging in crowdsourcing every day and it seems that this public-opinion sensation has come out of nowhere. Many often think the term emerged out of a trendy Silicon Valley think-tank (granted the phrase and definition were coined towards the end of the 90’s); however, the concept has been around for at least 300 years. In 1714 King Charles II of England sought the public’s knowledge in designing a new marine timekeeping piece. Since then, crowdsourcing has grown to become one of the most important development and marketing tools in business.

The success of crowdsourcing has produced some of the most innovative campaigns and products in the world. Here are four great examples of global crowdsourcing.

512px-Starbucks_ShundeMy Starbucks Idea: Starbucks began its crowdsourcing journey more than five years ago with the inception of “My Starbucks Idea.” Since then, 277 ideas have been brought to creation including their famous cake pops, free Wi-Fi, splash sticks and my personal favorite – Hazelnut Macchiato.

Don’t be deceived, this campaign may sound fun and fanciful or that it was solely designed to amuse queuing customers as a gimmick to demonstrate that the company “really does care.”  The fact is, Starbucks has a vested interest in the success of the crowdsourcing program.  It really does care, as reports suggest that cake pops alone have generated revenue of approximately $8.7 million since their release, indicating the financial impact that crowdsourcing can add to a business in a significant way.

McDonaldsMcDonalds Burger Builder: The Big Mac and Quarter Pounder remain firm favorites in the fast food industry; however, this is the dawning of the age of Ragin’ Cajun, Urban Heat and The Beast. The fast food giant is drawing upon public opinion to design a new burger, of which there are one million different combinations to choose from just to start. The top five burger designs selected will be sold in stores across the United Kingdom throughout October 2014.

Unlike Starbucks though, it’s unlikely that this scheme is intended to generate serious revenue. It is the perfect market research tool and a good public social media campaign. Crowdsourcing has the advantage of acting as a product development tool. In this instance, McDonalds can gauge how their customer’s appetites are developing for customer-designed food items.  This campaign also serves as a springboard to launch McDonalds in social media in a very big way with a target market.  It’s locale-based crowdsourcing that has the potential to go global – designed your way.

Pinus_sabiniana_Mount_Diablo_2Mount Diablo Fire Recovery: Crowdsourcing isn’t just a tool used for corporations. In 2013, a fire spread across Mount Diablo State Park in California, destroying 3,700 acres. An important facet of wildlife recovery management is observation and monitoring. If a fully employed team were to undertake such a task, the logistical and financial considerations would be vast. Instead, the organisation Nerds4Nature devised stations where hikers and climbers could position their cameras and phones, take a picture of the landscape and then upload to social media. This then enabled the management team to produce time lapsed images of recovery – greatly reducing effort and expense. The moral of this story is that the crowd has the potential to not only generate revenue, in certain situations it can mitigate expenses and even save lives.

Mars_2Mission to Mars: In 2012, NASA faced a proposed budget cut of $226 million jeopardizing the launch of a Mars orbiter in 2016 and two rovers in 2018. Enter crowdsourcing. Rather than shelving the project, NASA turned to the genii of social media to seek assistance in designing shrewd technology – on the cheap.  More than 400 responses were received and in 2013 a panel sat down to assess the quality of the data. Whether the results were successful enough to be taken to development stage is yet to be ascertained; however, the point of the exercise is a valid one. Just because you are asking for information from the general public, it does not mean you are always going to get garbage. In fact, it is often the reverse. If average Joe or Jane can play rocket scientist, they can pretty much do anything.  In the end, it is rocket science and the crowd delivered.

Prior to my days at Welocalize, I was working in a job that required me to deal with a very prestigious Japanese client company. It was not necessary for me to speak Japanese, though it was important for me to make a good impression. When senior management decided to pay us a visit, I needed to impress. I searched on the Internet for basic courtesies and greetings and discovered online translation services where I could type in the English and the Japanese equivalent would be spoken to me – in native tongue. Through my online-surfing exercise, I was able to learn enough phrases in Japanese to make it through the visit and create the right impression. The team were delighted with the effort. Little did I know at the time that this sort of service is provided through crowdsourcing.

Welocalize has been matching the right talent to the right project since 1992.  The various projects and diversity of talent required to deliver exceptional work for our clients is dependent on the “crowd” we bring together.  Often this is through a very formalized process of vendor selection and qualifications for projects and other client projects want us to find a way to bring the global crowd together to collaborate as a community on a specific initiative.

If managed properly, crowdsourcing opens up huge possibilities to generate ideas, increase exposure and revenue and certainly has a place in the future as a key business tool. It is a bona fide juggernaut of a movement that seems to have no intentions of slowing down. It’s community. It’s working together and it unites us in very unique ways.


Sion Platts-Kilburn is a member of Welocalize’s global marketing team based in the UK

All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

Image Sources:
1. Starbucks photo by user: Zhaofeng Li (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
2. McDonalds photo by Richard Harrison (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Mount Diablo photo by Dan McWeeney (IMG_1859) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
4. Mars photo by Urbanus at de.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons