5 brands that got fans to lend a hand

Sometimes the best ideas come from the crowd. Here's a look at five brands that turned to their fans for inspiration.

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When it came time to create the newest flavor of Frito-Lay potato chips, the brand's brain trust turned things over to its most creative and important food critics: its customers. As part of the brand's "Do us a Flavor" contest, Frito-Lay lovers sent in 3.8 million chip flavor ideas (more on the winner to come). This crowdsourcing technique is nothing new to parent company PepsiCo. Its history with crowdsourcing dates back to 2007 when its "DEWmocracy" promotion generated the newest Mountain Dew flavor: Voltage. "It really started what I'll call a wave of consumer engagement and consumer control," says Frito-Lay chief marketing officer Ann Mukherjee. Since 2007, PepsiCo has received more than 20 million flavor suggestions from customers across all brands.

Like PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500), many prominent brands are a lot more willing to place important decisions in the hands of their fans. And it's no coincidence. Much of the movement stems from the rise of social media integration, says Sam Decker, CEO of Mass Relevance, which builds social media experiences into client websites, helping brands -- including Nike, NBC, and the National Basketball Association -- engage users by highlighting content on their sites. And with so many fans eager and willing to share their thoughts over social media, it's no surprise that companies are beginning to listen more closely. "The audience is there. They're used to participating and creating content," says Decker. "By doing it through a social network, you get the benefit of amplifying their participation out to their followers and then pulling in more people."

From chip flavors to NBA uniforms, here's a look at some notable and recent crowdsourcing and fan voting campaigns.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated June 24 2013 10:19 AM ET
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