Busting customer co-creation myths

A headshot of Sharon McIntyre

by Sharon McIntyre

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Embarking on a customer co-creation journey can seem daunting. While the benefits are hard to argue, there are also some areas of concern that decision-makers keep going back to which make them hesitant to take that first step. Over the years we have seen many reasons why organizations think co-creation wouldn’t work for them. We’re here to say: fear not! Read on as we bust the biggest myths about customer co-creation.

Myth #1: Your customers don’t know enough or can’t help you innovate

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Q: How can customers help your organization innovate?

A: They use your products everyday, so they know how you can make them even better!

American economist and MIT Sloan School of Management professor Eric von Hippel developed the concept of user innovation because he found that most innovation did not come from manufacturers – they came from end-users. Customers can quickly determine whether a product or service is doing its intended job. If there are any gaps, they quickly find ways to fill those gaps. They may like your product enough to keep using it, but there is much to learn from them about how you can make it that much better.

Infographic: The impact of co-creation on innovation & brand engagement

Users also tend to develop innovations that deliver novel functions. Lead users (another term coined by von Hippel) feel a need/pain point and create a solution to address it. Organizations should recognize this as an opportunity to co-create a solution that would work best for that end-user.

Myth #2: Legal issues from using external ideas and partnering with customers will threaten your business

Gif of three people simultaneously putting their heads down into their hands in disappointment.

At Chaordix, we believe in co-creating within a community. In order to have a healthy, vibrant community, transparency between the brand and its members must be established.

You can collaborate with your fans and avoid legal issues by setting guidelines from the get-go as part of your innovation challenge. While it might seem daunting, these guidelines also present an opportunity for you to incentivize idea submission, by showing your customers that they will actually get credit and recognition for the ideas they submit, motivating them even more to get involved.

LEGO Ideas is a great example for this. Although the rights to the winning sets belong to LEGO, they also make sure to reward winning creators through global recognition, credit, and 1% of all sales.

Myth #3: The ROI isn’t great enough

Gif of Rihanna gesturing with her hands about money.

If you’re a marketer you undoubtedly face the “What’s that gonna cost us?” question on a daily basis, and you must prove the ROI for every activity or initiative. While it’s important to back up that your co-creation community really is providing value for dollars – just see what Japanese brand Muji has done for proof – building co-creative communities also bring further value to an organization.

Engaging customers in the ideation, production, and marketing process leads to intangible benefits such as turning casual customers into loyal fans. Because they feel invested in the company and they feel valued, your customers form a bond with your brand that is hard to break. Brand superfans are the epitome of customer loyalty. They don’t stop at buying one of your products, they advocate for you and in the process, create new customers and even evangelize new fans.

This ongoing relationship is difficult to achieve and is highly valuable to any organization. Long story short – it’s worth it.

Myth #4: It’s just a fancy word for running an ideas contest

Gif of Steve Martin pointing towards his head as in deep thought, but coming up inconclusive.

Co-creation is not just about collecting ideas via a digital suggestion box. Idea contests are one-directional and they don’t encourage people to stay engaged in an innovation process. People do not feel like they are communicating directly with the company, and therefore, the relationship falls flat. Plus, unless you “win” you never get to see what happened with your idea!

Related Read: Brainstorming 3.0 - learning to walk, run, fly in ideation

Successful co-creation lies in moving beyond the initial ideas contest. What happens after your customers submit ideas? In a Chaordix-powered community, organizations are able to keep members engaged and see ideas through to launch or implementation. Customers are part of the process from start to finish and feel that they are thoroughly invested in the final result.

Myth #5: I can do this on social media

Gif of Betty White telling a man she's on "Facebook and the Twitter"

Customer co-creation requires a community where members feel truly engaged – that they are part of everything that is going on around them. Brands also need to have full control of the platform and not be tied to any potential terms or feature/algorithm changes of a platform they do not own.

For these reasons alone, customer co-creation cannot flourish on a social media platform. Instead, organizations need a customer participation platform that allows them to have full control of the community, and where they can give their members the opportunity to interact and feel like they are part of the action. Members need to know that the communication goes two ways, and not feel like they are being talked at.

A direct line of communication with your biggest fans is key. Also vital is leveraging custom workflows for innovation, inspired by proven methods like creative problem solving and design thinking, to achieve the goals for your co-creation program.

These types of workflows, made up from a variety of connected activities, discussions and ideation challenges, just aren’t possible on Facebook or Instagram. But with the right community platform, empathy, ideation and co-creativity can be done at scale.

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