Industrial espionage through crowd sourcing

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Secrecy is important to any firm who wants to launch a new product. By surprising the competitors with a product the firm can increase its market share, reputation and have generally an advantage. If another firm knows about the new product he can potentially launch a competing product earlier. Especially in the B2B world this can be disrupting. As an Art Director you are often directing also the overall communication of your client – so even this topic is of your business. After the break I talk about how I discovered a secret product line through crowd sourcing and how we can prevent such an event.

Discovering a secret product line

Two weeks ago I discovered through a crowd sourcing portal for graphic design that a competitor of my client is preparing to launch a whole new product line. They where pitching for a “name” and “logo design” for a range of products.

I informed my client about the pitch and ask them if they knew something about the new product line. They didn’t and neither did the market – a scoop so to say. The information in the pitch was valuable to my client since it contained a very good description about the features of the new product line and when it will be launched. Therefore the client informed its sales force and they are now prepared to answer questions of their clients.

What can we learn from this experience?

  1. Do not crowd source design of “secret” products – especially if the pitch can be seen without any registration
  2. Do not describe your product in the project brief – send the description to an interested designer after he has signed a non disclosure agreement
  3. Do not link directly to your competitors site – I’ve found out about the pitch because I’ve seen hundreds of visitors coming from a non-industry related site
  4. Do prohibit your employees to blog, twitter, Facebook about a new product
  5. Use a project code name that does not relate to your industry or product
  6. Do not use Cloud-Services for your product development - unless you are sure that none of the information can be made available to the public

How can you use crowd sourcing and the internet for spying on your competitors?

  1. Visit crowd sourcing portals on a regular basis and search for projects related to your industry and competitors
  2. Use Google Alerts not only to monitor the web activity of your firm and brands, but also of your competitors
  3. Use crowd sourcing traditionally by letting the crowd search through social networks, forums and the web for information about your competitors
  4. Sign up and monitor the support forums of your main competitors (if they have one). If they don’t have one try to open a user-to-user support forum for your competitors products – and see what happens.

This are just a few examples how you can leverage the internet for doing research.

3 Comments

  1. In case you missed it last week: Industrial espionage through crowd sourcing – http://bit.ly/dw8KMH (via @derFrankie)
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Mike

    Thanks for a wonderful post, l ve been looking for such information, I will join jour rss feed now.

  3. @m1chno

    Thanks for an interesting post – Not sure I agree it applies to all instances though – not a lot of crowdsourcing platforms deal with industrially manufactured products (eg home appliances) and where concepts not necessarily need to be identified with end manufacturers why the risk could be minimal. At least I haven’t seen any crowdsourcing forums for industrial large scale manufacturing organizations? Another point is that we need to rethink (we ie organizations) how we regulate property – in order to explore the potentials of crowdsourcing fully. Property is regulated through organization and processes in large scale MNEs – what we need is a change in paradigm where virtual platforms regulate IP rights letting the engineers loose and creative.