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CrowdtapWhat if you got to directly influence brands like AOL, General Electric and Pinkberry while earning prizes? Crowdtap, which provides marketing research through its network of volunteers,  received $7 million in funding to get you there.

According to Crowdtap, there are two big problems with marketing today. First, it’s expensive for businesses to gain insight into their potential markets. Exploring a market and testing a product has time, manpower and actual cash cost. Second, the consumers who do provide insight (through focus groups or polls, for instance) generally do so in a “one and done” setting. Crowdtap thinks it can fill the gaps.

To do this, Crowdtap starts with manpower. “We bring people,” said chief executive Brandon Evans, “We have a network of 150,000 and add about 5,000 a week.” This network is what Crowdtap calls its brand influencer communities. They provide insight through polls and discussions.

In order to incentivize, or make volunteering for these panels desirable, Crowdtap turned to gamification. Focus groups are given gift cards, support for charities and even products. The more people participate and become influential for a brand, the more likely they are to get a prize, which encourages them to continue participating. That in turn creates a consistent set of people who brands can leverage for Crowdtap pollre-targeting.

Evans used the example of Diet Coke.  If Coke asks a group if they like diet soda, and they answer yes, Coke can then go back and send that group some Diet Coke. Those in that group then share their thoughts about the specific brand with friends, ideally turning them from guinea pigs into brand advocates.

Crowdtap plans to use its funding to make hires, particularly in the engineering and sales team. Also on its list are plans to beef up the gamification aspect, which Evans believes is an integral part of the company’s offerings. “It’s about making it fun, making it a game,” he said.

The company is particularly excited to partner with the Foundry Group, which funded Zynga. “We really liked them and really bonded with them,” said Evans. “They do a lot with gamification.”

Crowdtap logo

Crowdtap was founded in 2009 and has 13 employees. The New York based company was incubated by Mr Youth, which provided Crowdtap with its $3 million seed funding, and participated in this round. Crowdtap investors include Foundry Group, Mr Youth and GSA Venture Partners.

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