Collective Intelligence: The best or worst thing to happen to Marketing?

Collective intelligence, which is sometimes referred to as crowd sourcing, is defined as “a phenomenon where a shared or group intelligence emerges from a collaboration and competition of many individuals” (Collective intelligence, 2012). It can also be said that it is “a form of networking enabled by the rise of communications technology, which has enabled interactivity and users generating their own content” (Collective intelligence, 2012). In plain English this simply means that collective intelligence in networked communication which allows individuals and groups to produce content that can be shared with many others, usually via the internet. It is through collective intelligence that human knowledge can be enhanced as it facilitates the interaction among people, allows deep and wide databases, which are filled with information, and promotes participation (Levy, 1997).

While collective intelligence has existed for many decades now, the phenomenon has taken off with the development of the Web 2.0 (Honan, 2012). The Web 2.0 has enabled collective intelligence as it focuses on sharing and producing new content, interacting with others and creating communities, much different to Web 1.0 that focused on authorities providing information for general consumers, without any interaction resulting in a very static webpage (Drumgoole, 2006). The Web 2.0 facilitates the idea of a community through several sites such as social networks including Facebook, blogs, wikis and YouTube, just to name a few. One great example of collective intelligence, which has come about due to the Web 2.0, is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. Wikipedia allows people to edit, contribute and view content of a wide variety of topics (Flew, 2008).

"Web 2.0"

“Web 2.0”

Collective Intelligence has become such an important part of society with most people contributing to blogs or micro blogs, like twitter, and posting information on Facebook on a daily basis. In addition to this the advancement of technology has allowed people to always have access to the internet which enables information to be accessed, shared and consumed at a faster rate then ever before (McKinsey, 2007). With the Web 2.0 playing such a big role in people’s personal lives, there is no doubt that it is and has crossed over into being utilized in the business world. Today collective intelligence can be seen in a majority of occupations particularly those involved in communications. One job in particular that it is being affected by collective intelligence is marketing, however, it is not necessarily for all good reasons.

The use of the Internet is increasingly becoming a more popular medium for marketers to utilize whether it is for advertising, market research or managing and building customer relationships. With the use of the web 2.0 the way marketers are developing campaigns has changed as they are focusing on interaction with consumers and building communities (Kozinets, Hemetsberger & Schau, 2008). These campaigns involved getting consumers to become actively involved in the company and produce their own content as well as interact with the company and other consumers. A great example of this is the user-created Superbowl commercial campaign, developed by Doritos (Baumgarten, 2012). This campaign involved encouraging fans to create their own commercials and upload them to the campaign, crash the super bowl, Facebook page. It then went on further and encouraged people to vote for their favourite, where the winners ad would be played during the Superbowl and to top it off they would the $1 million prize money.

Marketers are also producing Facebook pages, twitter accounts and blogs, along with other things on the web to encourage communication with customers. These sites are becoming a fundamental part of every business marketing plan as they allow consumer a medium for communication. Consumers are constantly encouraged to post on the page, which can promote the company, as well as possibly spark ideas for new inventions (Fitch, 2009).

There, however, is a down side to the use of collective intelligence as now consumers hold more power in what content is released to the public rather then the marketing department holding all control (Fitch, 2009). With consumers having access to all sorts of facilities due to the Web 2.0; such as reviews, blogs, social media sites and videos, they are able to voice their opinion about a brand or product, which if it’s a negative can potentially tarnish the brands reputation. In addition to this, consumers are increasingly looking towards other consumers’ opinions as they regard them to be more reliable then any marketing or advertising efforts (Fitch, 2009). This places even greater control on consumers and therefore poses a problem to marketers in how to deal with and manage any backlash and negative remarks.

Collective intelligence can be a great thing for marketers to use when they can control however consumers are gaining even greater control and are willing to voice there opinion, so for your brands sake you better hope their opinions a good one.


Baumgarten, C. (2012). 3 User-Generated Campaigns That Got It Right, retrieved from

Collective intelligence. (n.d.).’s 21st Century Lexicon. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from website: intelligence

Drumgoole, J. (2006). Web 2.0 vs Web 1.0. retrieved from

Fitch, D. (2009). The Business of Brands: Collective Intelligence for Marketing Today, retrieved from

Flew, T. (2008). New Media: an introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Hemetsberger, A., Kozinets, R.V. & Schau, H.J. (2008). The Wisdom of Consumer Crowds: Collective Innovation in the Age of Networked Marketing.Journal of Macromarketing, 28 (339). 
DOI: 10.1177/0276146708325382. Retrieved from

Honan, D. (2012). Collective Intelligence: Dispatch from the Nantucket project, retrieved from

Levy, P. (1999). Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Helix Books. Retrieved from

McKinsey. (2007). How Business are using Web 2.0. retrieved from

Additional resources

Jenkins, H. Interactive Audiences? 
The ‘Collective Intelligence’ Of Media Fans. Retrieved from



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