Updated: Nov 23
Almost all marketing professionals have, at some point in time, spent sleepless nights trying to come up with new and innovative ideas. Staring blankly at the laptop screen, with a cup of coffee, hoping for some divine intervention! What will our consumer like? What kind of product or content would they want to see more on our channels?
Well, what if you could ask consumers directly?
A 2014 Edelman study found that 87% of people across 12 countries wanted meaningful interactions with brands, yet only 17% thought that brands did it well. If consumers are willing and eager, why not engage with them and co-create?
The idea of co-creation gained popularity from an article published by Harvard Business Review in 2000. In the process of co-creation, businesses invite ideas and suggestions from consumers and outsiders to foster an environment of collaboration and come up with products, services and solutions that are more attuned to customer preferences.
A case in point
In the 1950s, Betty Crocker, was having a tough time selling their instant cake mix. It seemed like a great product because all a consumer had to do was add water, prepare the mix and bake the cake. For a product that makes the baking process so simple, there should have been many takers, or so one would think. However, unable to better sales numbers, Betty Crocker approached Ernest Dichter, also known as the father of motivational research, for help. According to Dichter, the cake mix made the process of baking too easy and made home bakers feel that the skill of baking a good cake was being unappreciated. Dichter suggested that the brand removes powdered eggs and let the consumers add in fresh eggs when preparing the mix. That way, the user will get more ownership of the final output. The recipe was reworked and the sale of Betty Crocker’s cake mix skyrocketed.
The reason? Well, the consumer felt more involved in the process. They felt like they were co-creating the cake.
Thanks to the reach of internet and social media, consumers can now interact with brands actively and easily. While co-creation is mostly anticipated from a brand’s existing customers, the process can also include prospective clients, supply chain vendors and associates, industry influencers, and at times, competitors as well.
Disrupting today for a new tomorrow
A brand can gain a lot from involving customers in designing their experience, collaborating and co-creating. One of the most common reasons to devise co-creating initiatives is to come up with something new and different. All businesses want to be unique and stand out, but at times, ideas lack freshness and seem refurbished. Co-creation and collaboration will help introduce new viewpoints and make it easy for a brand to understand customer preferences directly, leading to successful product launches.
Co-creation can also help improve a brand’s bottom-line. It can not only boost sales by aligning products and services with what consumers want, but also help save on research, development and marketing costs. Along with better revenue, co-creation can also reduce customer churn rates, improve social impact and customer retention, and bring your community closer to the business.
Brands that nailed co-creation
BMW, the automobile company, launched its Co-Creation Lab in 2010. The company’s first open innovation contest, Tomorrow’s Urban Mobility Services, had 500 participants and led to 300 unique product ideas. BMW’s web community grew and more than 5000 comments were posted. By 2016, the lab had over 5000 regular participants and most contests resulted in 1300 new ideas, on an average.
The Swedish furniture company, IKEA, has a sustainable and robust co-creation platform called Co-Create IKEA. Through the platform, IKEA can collaborate with consumers directly. Through this platform, IKEA conducts polls and surveys, and collects feedback around the emotional and functional needs of customers. Once the data is gathered, IKEA teams develop working models in collaboration with consumers and the users of Co-Create IKEA gives direct feedback on work-in-progress prototypes. Guided by the reactions, IKEA arrives at the finished and final products.
Some other brands that have done well to co-create are Unilever, DeWalt, LEGO, Heineken, DHL and Coca-Cola.
You don’t always need subject matter experts to give you the best ideas. In fact, they can, at times, come from the most unexpected pockets, from people who are not a part of your industry or department. A brand should keep an open mind and sift through all the ideas and suggestions, and judge them on the basis on merit. By undertaking co-creation initiatives, brands can be truly customer-centric and provide their customers, both existing and new, with value.