6 key areas for customer co-creation and brand collaboration

A headshot of David Garnder.

by David Gardner

Cartoon illustration of two rows of colourful lightening bolts interchanging with colourful lightbulbs with brains in the glass bulb.

Engaging your customers in co-creation opens up a world of possibilities for your organization. When the term co-creation is used, many people automatically think of examples that involve the sourcing of ideas for new product lines. Because of this, some may assume that co-creation is only for consumer brands, which is far from the truth.

There are many other ways for companies to co-create with customers! Some of the world’s biggest brands have co-created with customers: IBM, P&G, and BMW to name a few.

Here are some ways your brand can get your customers involved in the co-creation process:

1. Product Innovation

Product innovation is undoubtedly the most well-known use case for co-creation. Many brands engage their customers in co-creation specifically for product innovation. The most popular example of product innovation co-creation is LEGO Ideas, where fans submit ideas for new LEGO kits.

Another great example of a company that regularly co-creates with their customers is Muji, a Japanese retailer which offers a wide variety of household and consumer goods. Muji is well-known for their minimalist philosophy, offering products that perform best for their intended use. Their co-created products have included a spectrum of consumer goods, from flavoured pretzels to the BodyFit chair.

Two people in yoga-gear lounging on large grey beanbags.

Muji has found that their co-created products have been so well-received by customers that they have led to higher sales compared to products designed in-house, both in the short-term and long-term. In turn, customers feel that they are valued by your brand and that they have a direct impact on your organization. Talk about success and validation!

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2. Product Improvement

Closely related to product innovation, another great use for co-creation is product improvement. It makes sense - who better to tell you how you can make your product better than the people who use them? Co-creation is a great opportunity to find not only how your product is being used, but also if products are fulfilling their intended use or if there’s room for improvement.

No products? No problem! This also holds true for service companies. One company that used co-creation to improve their services is DHL. They asked customers to collaborate with them on ways to improve DHL’s supply chain and make their service better for everyone. DHL created innovation centres and employed several customer co-creation formats. Through these sessions they came up with the Parcelcopter, a drone delivery service, and augmented reality app to improve inventory.

DHL delivery drone.

Product innovation and product improvement are closely related, and both processes can uncover great opportunities for your brand.

Check out our ‘Ultimate Guide to Product Co-Creation’ for tips on how to work together with your brand community.

3. Process Improvements

Similar in nature to improving existing products, is the opportunity to improve processes, from customer service and support, to loyalty programs.

Imagine this: something is not quite right with your service process; you know it could be better. Through co-creation, you can engage both your employees and expert users (customers and fans) to help identify the weaknesses and improvements for any process.

While your brand's biggest fans may not have the technical expertise to assist with all aspects of your product innovation and development cycle, they are the ones who can offer immense insights and share unique experiences when it comes to ideation for how to improve the customer experience. A co-creative community provides a means for real-time feedback, discussions and other research activities, which provides a deeper glimpse into current processes and how they make your customers feel.

Related Read: How co-creation impacts the customer experience

Understanding consumer frustrations and needs during their shopping/buying and post-purchase experience, is the first step to a better customer journey map - literally, per the next example below.

American Airlines leveraged Chaordix's platform for service/process innovation (as well as brand development) for its customers. Inspired by requests from super-elite flyers to improve AA's loyalty program via their online community (powered by Chaordix), AA began collaborating on process improvements with their high-value flyers.

In 2013, American Airlines launched a new app and the AAdvantages awards map to easily show customers geographically where they can fly with their points. Top ideas for this customer experience improvement were initially beta developed by two AA student interns and then tested with community members first to refine.

A map of the United States with pins dropped all over it

Following its initial success with co-creation, American Airlines continues to collaborate with loyal fans to co-create service and experience enhancements, from redesigning executive lounges to improving first-class seats on planes.

Read Next: The benefits of co-creation - 4 reasons your CX team should co-create with customers

4. Marketing Content

If you’re looking to co-create with your customers, chances are you’re looking to collaborate with some of your biggest fans. And if they are very big fans, then they likely share your brand within their networks, especially on social media. So why not work on doing that with them?

Brands can easily co-create marketing content with their customers. For example, Converse encouraged fans to share how they customized their personal pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars for a chance to be featured on Converse’s social media channels. The “Made by You” campaign celebrated what Converse knew their fans were already doing and in turn, fans felt appreciated and valued. The shoes were featured in a massive brand campaign and each pair showed the name and signature of each ‘creator’.

Show your customers love by recognizing how they show love for your brand.

Custom Chuck Taylor All Stars

5. Implementation / Launch Strategy

The foundation of co-creation is the community that you build with and for your customers. Because they are part of a community, their participation does not end in the ideation stage. Once ideas have been submitted, you can get them involved throughout the rest of the iteration process, vetting ideas and gathering feedback. You can also collaborate with your customers in the implementation of these products/solutions.

In a co-creative community, the members you have chosen to invite are most likely the same group of people who best represent your end users. This makes them a valuable resource as you explore the potential of your new or improved product.

In this phase of the co-creative process, ask your community for ideas on possible marketing and media channels as well as target audiences. Where do they find inspiration or influence on their purchasing habits? What social channels do they prefer to share their own ideas?

Your team can also test potential distribution strategies, or marketing messages, and even collaborate with the community on new ways to roll out the new product/service that you may not have thought of internally.

You May Also Like: What you need for successful customer co-creation

6. Brand Management

Your customers know your brand well, so co-creative communities are great places to collaborate on brand management. While LEGO Ideas is well-known for the new products that it has helped launch, LEGO has also collaborated with their fans in the community on managing their brand.

In 2018, LEGO posed a new challenge to the LEGO Ideas community to design the trophy for the FIRST LEGO League, an international competition for elementary and middle school students to build LEGO-based robots to help solve issues related to real-world scenarios. This challenge brought LEGO initiatives together: LEGO Ideas, LEGO Education and even LEGO Robotics.

Additionally, LEGO engaged its community in designing its new LEGO Ideas logo. Talk about a true co-creative community, from new products to branding!

LEGO pieces forming the word "IDEAS"

A successful community where participants feel valued, engaged, and invested is a treasure trove of new ideas and opportunities for your brand – mine it! Co-creation does not end with one innovation challenge or ideas contest– there is long-term value in co-creative communities, and it can transform your relationship with your brand and your customers.

Are you ready to co-create with your customers? Check out our Participation Platform to learn more about how you can get started. 

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