With Roger Ebert’s passing today, we’ve lost not only a legendary movie critic, but also a man who recognized that the power of the people, as much as his own reviews, could decide the fate of a movie – and even a product, company or person.
Many may not know, but Ebert was an early investor in Google and believed in the promise of the Internet to share messages.
In his online reviews, Ebert always encouraged others to chime in with their own views of the movie. This inspired me to contribute my own reviews to Yahoo! for a period – something I plan to return to in the near future.
Days before his death, Ebert even launched a Kickstarter campaign to gather money from the public to bring “At the Movies” back to television.
This faith in the public is a reminder of other recent instances where companies put the future of their products and even personnel in the hands of the fans.
Razer’s Project Fiona
Razer’s tablet prototype, Project Fiona, was originally shown at CES in January 2012 running a full Windows OS on a 10.1″ display, powered by a Core i7 processor, and boasting a potential late 2012 release.
But, in October 2012, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan posted a picture of the tablet, stating that they would only produce Project Fiona if the picture received 10,000 likes in 7 days. If they couldn’t drum up enough interest for people to Like the picture, then it’s probably safe to say Razer fans wouldn’t buy it.
With 139,000+ Facebook subscribers soon thereafter, Min-Liang posed additional questions to his subscribers, the results of which have determined what Fiona’s price range will be, what CPU/GPU configuration it should have, and which other features will be included.
Gears of War 3
This type of crowd sourcing was also seen when Epic Games and Microsoft allowed fans to determine the fate of character Clayton Carmine in Gears of War 3.
The eventual decision was made, based on a count of fans’ purchases of limited edition “Save Carmine” or “Carmine Must Die” t-shirts bought either on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace or in person at that year’s Comic-Con show – with all of the proceeds going to the Child’s Play Charity.
In a move that not only brought the team a healthy dose of publicity but also gave fans a sense of inclusion in the decision-making process and future direction of the franchise, the Seattle Sounders provided its fans in September 2012 the opportunity to determine the fate of the Major League Soccer team’s general manager.
Members of the “Alliance,” a fan association that includes season ticket holders and fans who are willing to pony up $125 per year, were left responsible for the fate of Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer, who was publicly not too fond of how his job hanged in the balance of the whims of the team’s fans.
But, if it comes down to either turning a blind eye to customer feedback or embracing it, the latter will win every time. Fans hold the ultimate power in making or breaking products, companies and even personnel – particularly these days with social media. For instance, companies coming to our client Medallia to find out what their customers are saying about them know the power of the people.
So, while we may not see another classic Ebert review, the legacy and example he left behind for the value of public opinion will live on.