The Boston Globe reported this weekend on the fascinating new research of Vienna University Professor Martin Schreier. He studied the marketing of crowdsourced products. Schreier found that marketing an item as user-designed tended to increase sales more than marketing a product as created by a firm's own designers. Why this positive effect? Schreier discovered that, "People believe their peers understand their needs better, and therefore, come up with better solutions." Moroever, Schreier found that people tend to react more positively if informed that the user-designers had something in common with them. For instance, female consumers tended to prefer user-designers who were women similar to them.
Is there a potential downside to marketing a product as "user-designed"? Schreier found that the effect does not appear to be positive for luxury items or high tech goods. Why? For technologically sophisticated products, the consumer trusts experts with high levels of knowledge and expertise more so than fellow users. As for luxury items, the explanation is quite different. In those cases, consumers "want to set themselves apart." Thus, they tend not to prefer something sourced from the crowd.