Co-creating with customers Matt 23 May 2006

21 comments Latest by Graham Hill

Trendwatching.com recently published a roundup of companies that are co-creating with customers.

And from a business and innovation angle, we’d like to argue that the CUSTOMER-MADE trend, co-creating with your customers, is the most important one to watch. Not because everything has to or will be co-created in the future, but because tapping into the collective experiences, skills and ingenuity of hundreds of millions of consumers around the world is a complete departure from the inward looking, producer-versus-consumer innovation model so common to corporations around the world.

The article mentions DIY advertising like L’Oreal’s You Make The Commercial or MasterCard’s Write a Priceless Ad but the most interesting examples are in product development:

Nokia invited designers to design a cool phone and got entries from around the world. The winner was Turkish designer Tamer Nakisci’s wrist-band style phone.

Wrist-band style phone

Muji is launching an international design competition focused on design for the edges. Entries can be anything from furniture, stationery and office equipment, to everyday items. The objective is “not to design something that is placed in the middle of the room, but towards the edges.”

Even beverage manufacturers are hopping on the bandwagon. Austrian manufacturer Frenkenburger recently asked customers to come up with new flavours for its all natural hemp milk drink, Trinkhanf (pretty label btw). Frenkenburger challenged customers to create new flavours using fruits, herbs, or other natural ingredients. The winner gets one euro-cent per bottle sold.

Danish Vores Øl (“Our Beer”) is the world’s first “open-source beer.” The recipe and the entire brand is published under a Creative Commons license so anyone can use Vores Øl’s recipe to brew the beer or to create a variation.

21 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Jared White 23 May 06

Hey, just a heads-up: your page charset and the special characters next to “Vores” don’t match. (I’m in Safari.) If I manually switch the page to UTF-8, it looks great. Just thought you should know. ;)

Anonymous Coward 23 May 06

Isn’t this just a way to get your work done for free by your customers?

Larry Myers 23 May 06

I wouldn’t say this is getting work done for free, but possibly the next iteration of market research. Rather than just giving your customers some pre-defined choices and saying “which one do you like?” it’s allowing customers to say this is what I’d do if I was in control.

The company isn’t obligated to go with the idea (i.e. the adage of customers not knowing what they really want), but at least it helps them see where their ideas and their customers ideas differ.

Anders Kusk 23 May 06

Vores Øl, there you have it :)

Mark 23 May 06

So would you consider moving from getting customer input to getting their ideas, Focusgroup 2.0?

Ben Kittrell 23 May 06

It’s not free. Just think of the recognition you could get. Slashdot is having a redesign contest and the prize is a $4000 laptop, but who gives a crap about the laptop. As a designer, if you won, you’d have to beat customers away with a 2x4. And you get a nice laptop ;)

Anonymous Coward 23 May 06

As a designer, if you won, you’d have to beat customers away with a 2x4.

Everyone thinks that, but it’s rarely true.

Ben Kittrell 23 May 06

Really? Curious…

Do you speak from experience?

Ian 23 May 06

And there is that old worn out feeling of doing something just for the pride and challenge of it…. but maybe thats just me.

Jamie 23 May 06

How does this philosophy of co-creating with your customers jive with the 37s philosohy of designing (software) for yourself first? I am not saying the two ideas are contradictory. Just curious if you could articulate a good way to walk the line between the two.

Peter Nabicht 23 May 06

I don’t understand how the L’Oreal and MasterCard commercial count as customers helping design/make the product. L’Oreal’s product is makeup and MastCard’s products are credit cards. Neither of them supply commercials to their customers.

JF 23 May 06

How does this philosophy of co-creating with your customers jive with the 37s philosohy of designing (software) for yourself first? I am not saying the two ideas are contradictory. Just curious if you could articulate a good way to walk the line between the two.

We listen to our customers ideas, we just don’t say yes to all of them. But initially, yes, we design the product for ourselves. Then once it’s out in the market we make adjustments based on customer feedback.

gwg 23 May 06

I’d argue that adding customers into the creation process generates far more work than it could possibly eliminate.

reid 23 May 06

“co-creating” just sounds like a new word for “listening” and is probably more useful as marketing buzz than a description of truly noteworthy change. Haven’t there been design and jingle contents for more than a century?

@pn: i agree on the L’Oreal and MC — that’s more an attempt to extend (squander?) whatever cultural cache those organizations have managed to attract. The MC one would have been cool a few years ago. Now it’s kind of boring.

Having said all that, I want one of those phones.

Ben 23 May 06

In my industry (not-for-profit) we’ve been designing programs and services hand-in-hand with our customers/members for decades. We probably involve them too much into the process, but there is definitely much to be learned from the work we’ve historically done with the consumers of our products and services.

LG 23 May 06

To get it beyond the ‘cool marketing ploy’ stage, why wouldn’t you just open up your internal design process?

Not saying that they are, but it seems Nokia would have to have a fairly mature internal group of designers who would be happy with the company jumping “outside” to find better designs for the future.

Why not make the customer feedback loops start at the internal designer sketch stage? That’d be closer to matching it to the rapid iteration, web app model.

Miles 23 May 06

I’d argue that co-creation is great if its an internal part of your business and not just a gimmick or mkt ploy to appear more ‘tapped in’ to your customers. You have to live it to make it work.

As for gwg’s comment that:

“adding customers into the creation process generates far more work than it could possibly eliminate.”

That might be right but the goal is to put out a app/service/product that people love and want and use regardless of how much work it takes and getting customers involved is almost a requirement today in my opinion.

Anonymous Coward 23 May 06

That might be right but the goal is to put out a app/service/product that people love and want and use regardless of how much work it takes

That’s a recipe for disaster. Costs have to be factored into everything you do. When you say “regardless of how much work it takes” you are ignoring costs.

deb 23 May 06

I think “co-creating” with customers can be amazing - depending on the type of product. Those companies are not really co-creating they are co-marketing. Nokia comes close - if that really goes into development. Nut why is one cool deisgn better than others? Maybe most of their sers don;t want a cool wristband watch - but rather improvement to the phone they have?

My fear is that it is just lipservice as they try to get on the “user generated content” bandwagon (of which I am a fan, but not when it is co-opted). True co-creation is a bigger cultural shift than what your ad agency suggests that you do to get attention.

Dan 24 May 06

Semi-off topic — How did that phone win? If technical infesibility is not a prolem as it clearly isn’t, how does a wide wristband win?

Graham Hill 25 May 06

If you are a new company with a great product and thousands of customers, your customers probably already know more than you about the product, how to use it to do things you have not thought of and how to mash-it together with other products to do things you could never dream of. And if you are an old company with millions of customers. Well, you can work out the rest for yourself.

And what goes for products goes equally for services, for experiences, for business processes and for business models.

The list of companies involved in one form of co-creation or another is long: Eli Lilly, P&G, GM, Lego, Nokia, etc. The question is not whether you co-create with customers, but with which ones and how.

Of course you can always rely upon internally-focused R&D if you want to.

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