The co-creation trend: why brands need people

Sensemaking / The co-creation trend: why brands need people

Collaborative design and co-creation projects are redefining the way brands work.

By Duncan Jefferies / 12 Nov 2014

Tapping into a vibrant community of creative consumers can deliver big rewards for brands. The ingenuity and feedback provided by a vast global customer base has allowed many household names to go beyond focus groups and target niches, generating new fans with an enhanced sense of ownership and loyalty.

This kind of collaborative creation can reduce the development costs and risks associated with new product lines. According to Brian Millar, Director of Strategy at Sense Worldwide, a co-creation consultancy that has worked with Nike, PepsiCo, Converse and other big brands, no in-house R&D department can keep up with the current pace of change: “The smartest companies have learned to turn to their most creative consumers for inspiration and ideas.”

For consumers, the rewards of creative engagement with a brand vary from a more personalised level of interaction, through to shaping its development, or even financial rewards in the case of those who co-create new products. Through the Lego Ideas Platform, for instance, Lego enthusiasts are invited to submit and vote for new Lego designs. Those that clear an initial review and receive 10,000 votes from the community are evaluated by a Lego product team before becoming part of the brand’s portfolio of products; the person who originally came up with the idea receives 1% of the total net sales of the new design. Often these designs are available to buy within six months, rather than the two to three years it takes for in-house examples to reach the shelves.

Of course, not everyone has the time or desire to lend their skills to an advertising campaign or product development competition, and brands must avoid overloading those who do with requests for their input. Millar advises that good co-creation projects require “commitment, honesty and an appetite for discomfort” from the brand.

But for many, the inspiration, innovation and deeper customer engagement that co-creation projects can foster make them more than worth the effort.

Duncan Jefferies is a freelance writer and editor specialising in digital futures.

Image credit: Nathan Sawaya, 'Yellow'. 'Yellow' is currently featured on LEGO Ideas, and hopes to reach 10,000 votes.

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