Co-creation, find the secret - it is used by 50% of Fortune 500 companies. What is it really?


Co-Creation Marketing ROI Marketing Word of Mouth Collaboration C500club Jake Pearce

Co-creation is a buzzword and that's a problem because it delivers real financial value the term is largely misunderstood. Lego famously turned itself around by setting up an on-going club for adult fans to create new model kits. Before you say, which many do, my brand,service or product isn't interesting enough for co-creation, well one of the biggest co-creation incubators in the world is for deodorant underarm stains. (Nivea). Statistically 10-30% of your market, right now are Fans and that's the basis for doing co-creation because these people want to have contact with you, they care about your brand.

But Why bother? Here are some of the many benefits: increasing NPS, increase in Word of Mouth (highest marketing ROI there is), lowering the risk of innovation backfiring and the provision of a constant stream of improvements for your brand,service or product. Forbes (below) says 50% of all Fortune 500 companies are now into co-creation. Ramaswamy's book 'Co-creation' building it with them is chock full of great case studies. Despite these well known sources there is a lot of misinformation about co-creation.

We've been doing it for 20 years now. Sometimes it's easier to understand what something isn't rather than what it is. So let's clear up some common myths:

  • Having a Facebook page means we're co-creating.
  • Getting our consumers to make ads is co-creation.
  • Co-creation is focus groups with post it notes where we come up with ideas.

Let's slay these myths and let us be clear, they are based on experience and a thorough review of the case studies and our own experience.

Slaying myth 1 .We've got a Facebook page

Having a Facebook page, or 'having a conversation' with your customer or consumer isn' co-creation. Here's why, basically it's just information.

Co-creation is where you work with customers, on an on-going basis. You have to treat them like VIP's to get them to feel valued. And that means face to face interaction or interaction in a dedicated space for your 'best customers'. So it's best to think of it as creating a 'club' for your top customers. You can work with them to:

  • Create new brands, products or services
  • Improve existing brands,products or services
  • Under special conditions ask them to come up with communication concepts.

In order to co-create you have to give to get. You have to teach them ideation techniques, de Bono style, you have to give them a gift which is a new way to problem solve that they can apply to their own lives, first.

Slaying myth 2 ' We ?got them to make ads' or 'name our product'

In 2006 the Chevvy Tahoe brand (USA) asked consumers to create ads for them, sales fell by 6% and there were literally 1000?s of ads made by ordinary people using selected images and a voice over which said the product was an eco-monster. Why?

Now to be fair, this was at the beginning of corporates learning about co-creation, but the simple fact is that they dove in too fast. They didn't nurture the relationships with their top customers they just went straight in to 'give me some ads'. You need to build trust with a group of customers either face to face or on-line to encourage them to feel you care. You have to build a relationship with them first. What should Chevvy have done? Treated them like they were in a Club, Harley Davidson is really good at this.

They should have invited them to come to evenings across the USA to look at the product, try it out and listen. They should have treated them like VIP's and then, only then, should they have invited them to make communication.

BMW have applied this 'relationship building approach' and when the Ford Focus applied this approach it was the best car brand launch in history. They connected with the customer, loaned them a car to make stories about where they travelled to and what they got up to, they cared.

Slaying myth 3 ? Co-creation is focus groups with post it notes

There are a lot of brand consultancies in the world now and new ideas are sexy, fun and creative. A lot of brand consultancies sell a program of 'co-creation' which is essentially about getting ideas from consumers or customers, essentially mining them for ideas. It's focus groups with post-it notes.

Typically this process is a one-off, it's in the 'explorer' phase of an innovation project. Imagine how you would feel if you were asked to get involved with your favourite brand, you were asked for ideas and then you never heard from them again. That's the mistake that many corporates fall into.

So the best advice I can give you is this. 10-30% of your market want to help you, these are the facts. It does not matter what category you are in, this figure is constant. But in order to do co-creation, you've got to think that your running your business like a Club, you've got to make people feel valued, you've got to give to get and you need to 'plug-in' senior management to the dialogue.

Iinet in Australia is one of the fastest growing telcos in the world and it has one of the highest NPS scores there is. In their organisation all the sales staff, call centre staff and top management are plugged in to forums, they are immersed in what their Fans think of them, they listen and act.

So if you want co-creation to be successful, run your business like a club. There are 10 styles of co-creation which fit different organisations, if you want to know more by all means e-mail

Co-creation book by Ramaswamy for case studies

 Forbes on co-creation

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