Wednesday, 26 November 2014
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The Wyke Farms Facebook competition leaves a sour taste

Tynan D’Arcy’s new brand designs and packaging for cheese company Wyke Farms are an interesting and innovative new direction for the company.

Angus

A bold new ‘speech bubble’ graphic and brave colour palette provide a modern new look for the brand, as well as clear shelf-standout.

But why was Wyke Farm unable to choose this design itself? Why did it rely on its Facebook fans to do the work for it – selecting Tynan D’Arcy’s designs from a shortlist of creative work that also featured concepts by Thinking Juice (which created the previous designs for Wyke Farms) and Holmes & Marchant?

To add insult to injury, this Facebook crowdsourcing exercise took place following an initial call for unpaid creative work, although Wyke Farms says all later development work - including the three shortlisted designs - was paid for.

Sure, the resulting designs are nice, but as one commentator put it on our original story, ‘Luck allowed this to happen, not rigour.’

The new packaging, chosen following a Facebook vote

The new packaging, chosen following a Facebook vote

This process illustrates both how certain brands can struggle to manage design – not having the confidence to a) choose a consultancy based on credentials or paid creative proposals and b) trust that consultancy to deliver decent work.

It also shows the dangers of mixing professional design commissioning with crowd-sourcing. I’m sure Wyke Farms entered into this exercise with the best of intentions – of opening up the rebrand process and letting its customers (Facebook fans) feel like they have a stake in it.

As Wyke Farms says, ‘The company was committed to accepting the “wisdom of the crowd”.

Indeed, the company has a very active and popular Facebook group, with lots of interesting, fun and engaging competitions (Free Cheese Friday, for example, sounds particularly appealing).

The new packaging on shelf

The new packaging on shelf

The mistake Wyke Farms made was to combine what should have been a professional and rigorous design process – which could still have been fun and richly-rewarding – with what was a frivolous and rather patronising exercise in crowd-sourcing.

We’re all for innovative customer engagement – but this was a social media step too far.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Not a fan of this work or of the approach to crowd sourcing for identity development. Used as a means of gauging customer response to a new identity crowd sourcing can be invaluable. Providingh customers are really brought into the process and understand why they are there. Used as a cheap route to curtailing the creative process and the effort and expense involved in getting your marketing strategy right, the results can be misleading. The results of crowd sourcing will only take you so far, as it usually results in appeasing opinionated motivated individuals within the current product user base with a bland ID. The result will be an ID that has no long-term future.

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  • Having been in the industry for over 25 years this is the most difficult business conditions I have ever experienced and have been caught up in something similar on a smaller scale, again via Facebook. Lead to believe a new, Voluntary Orgainisation, needed help with branding I supplied initial logo designs to find that the organisation was not what it seemed, the decision would be a public vote and more 'popular' Facebook users could sway the decision with friends and family. Ultimately the Voluntary Organisation failed to launch and kept all the logo designs up on their page anyway... Unlikely to get involved with anything similar again. Why have a dog, not even bark yourself but ask strangers to do it for you?

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  • Agencies enter into pitches all the time knowing work is being subjectively judged in consumer research against work from other agencies - this is just a bigger, more public audience and gets attention for the brand.
    Whether it's Crowdsourcing or a design being chosen through smaller, carefully considered research groups it's still ultimately the consumer making the decision on what they think looks nice. Design agencies will never like this, and will always want to be chosen based on a strong relationship, great brand insight and creative ability.
    Some brand owners will always use consumers to decide on design and using Facebook to facilitate this is just an extra way of PRing the brand in my view.

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  • As an end product I believe the right choice from the three designs was made - but am not sure for the right reasons. It was the brightest and easiest to like with no effort. If the people in charge are confident of this route - would they ask Facebook groups what to wear or how to cut their hair - no is the answer I suspect... so why do they undermine our professional abilities as experts in our field? I feel free pitching is also an insult that gives designers no respect - you select a designer, brief them and pay the agreed figure for what you get, not waste time, effort and materials! My business does not pitch and is more than busy!

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  • So to sum up, we are already seeing holes appearing in Clothier's plans but we will wait to see how the brand matures?

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  • Does this sort of thing happen in design disciplines other than graphics?

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  • I don't know why everyone is reacting bitterly to this.

    Wyke actually got a good result from the system, I really like the negative space cow, and their customers were engaged and are happier because of it.

    Wyke has gone down the same route as they would have had everything happened in-house:

    • Agencies pitched for the job.
    • Concepts were whittled down.
    • Focus groups were consulted.
    • The winning result was picked.

    Obviously this is not an ideal process from our end, as it does make us a bit more vulnerable, at worst case, to anyone with a copy of photoshop. However, if the client is happy and gets what they want, and they get a good result from it, then who are we to tell them it's wrong.

    We need to move with the times and take on elements of crowd-sourcing as a concept, pushing it in a direction we want.

    You could draw an analogy to the record companies and digital pirating.

    They stood back and watched people torrenting MP3s and didn't do anything for years, until they realised crying about it wasn't going to achieve anything, and got in on the act with new business models.

    We can stand here and cry about it all day long, and achieve nothing. Or, we can turn this around and use it to our advantage.

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  • Difficult one this, but when agencies repsond to a pitch you know it's not a two or three horse race. Back this up with your chances of winning and it might be best to use the time developing sales opportunities that are focused on your clients and relevant to your business.

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