How Enterprise Brands Do It: The Best Examples of Crowdsourced Innovation

A headshot of Judy Garvey

by Judy Garvey

An illustration of a golden trophy sprouting wings.

Want to get people excited about your business? Turn to the crowd. Crowdsourcing is the concept of mining ideas from large groups of consumers and customers. It's an integral part of modern business, with 90% of fortune 500 companies doing at least some kind of crowdsourcing. It's a fantastic way to increase brand awareness and boost sales.

The best brands know that innovation isn’t bound by the walls of their own companies. Sometimes, tapping an experienced, engaged or highly skilled crowd is the answer.

Over the last 20 years, especially after the advent of crowdsourcing software, it has become easier than ever for brands to crowdsource innovation - whether it’s internally (from employees or stakeholders), or externally (brand fans, external experts or the general public).

Many brands have taken advantage of crowdsourcing to come up with some of their most memorable innovations. Here are some great examples:

LEGO Ideas

If you ask people to give you a great example of a brand crowdsourcing innovation, LEGO Ideas is probably one of the most popular answers. Since first wading into crowdsourcing with the launch of LEGO Cuusoo in 2008, and then the launch of the LEGO Ideas community powered by Chaordix in 2012, LEGO has produced more than 30 kits based on ideas that were submitted.

Because the submissions have to garner support from within the community in order to be selected for review, ideas can have a massive following before they are even close to being available on the market. Some of the most popular kits to date include:

LEGO recognizes the value of each winning creator – their fame doesn’t stop within the community. LEGO gives them the full rockstar treatment and they even receive 1% of royalties. It’s a great way to incentivize the crowd to keep working on project ideas.

PepsiCo / FritoLay

You may have noticed the word "flavour" is not spelled "flavor". That's because it's the Queen's English spelling of the original campaign done by the Lay's company in England. Way back in 2008, Lays did their first "Do Us a Flavor!" campaign with their British brand Walkers Crisps.

This campaign ballooned into one of the largest crowdsourcing projects of all time. In 2008, the concept of crowdsourcing was fairly new, however. To determine if it was going to be a good idea, Lay's decided to test the waters with one of their micro brands, Walkers crisps.

It was so successful, a few years later the company decided to try the same thing with their flagship brand, Lay's Potato Chips.

There have been over 14 million submissions. Most brands would be happy if 14 million people knew who they were, let alone participated in a branding competition. The first winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, was a hit and boosted sales almost 8%!

This project exposed an important concept for crowdsourcing. You have to have a sense of humor if you are going to try to crowdsource. Most ideas fail because they lack imagination.

Don't Miss: 4 tips for how to crowdsource marketing content

Lay's got a bunch of chip ideas that they passed on. "Fromunda (from under) Cheese" [the stench of a person's private area] wasn't a big hit, and some consumers expressed their interest in Lay's competitor by suggesting "Doritos" flavored Lays potato chips. They passed on these ideas, obviously. By showing a sense of humor about it, Lay's showed their strength.

After 10 months, Lay’s enjoyed improvements in their ad awareness, purchase intent, and their Buzz Score. They also increased social media engagement as they maximized the ways that people could vote for their flavor of choice. Most importantly, upon the announcement of the winning flavor, Lay’s saw an 8 percent sales increase following its launch.

Since the success of the first ‘Do Us A Flavor’ campaign conducted in the US, FritoLay has run the contest in several countries and regions such as Canada and the UK. They have also used the campaign to encourage people to try their other product lines such as Lay’s Classic, Lay’s Wavy and Lay’s Kettle Cooked. Submitters not only get to come up with a flavor – they also get to choose what kind of chip to use. The campaign remains remains popular with consumers as new flavors are submitted every year.

Ford Motor Company

Crowdsourcing isn’t limited to finding new products. American car manufacturer Ford used Chaordix software to find transportation innovations. They engaged citizens in New York City and Detroit to crowdsource the biggest transportation barriers in their communities, and promote open innovation with customers and entrepreneurs to find solutions to these challenges.

Related Read: The benefits and limitations of crowdsourcing

The crowd innovation communities, which were called ‘Mobilize New York’ and ‘Go Detroit’, yielded more than 6,000 ideas from more than 1,700 participants, and helped kickstart solutions to the transportation barriers that were identified by each community.

Ford, together with local transport partners, helped provide prize money and support for the implementation of the winning solutions that were designed for each community’s needs. The Ford Smart Mobility challenges showed that Ford’s reach is beyond being an automaker – they are also an innovative mobility provider.


Starbucks is well-known as a company that understands that its most important stakeholders are its customers. For almost 10 years, Starbucks had their own crowdsourcing platform called, where anyone was able to submit any idea to make Starbucks better. From this platform, Starbucks introduced some of the products and services that we just take as part of the Starbucks experience today, such as:

  • Free in-store wifi
  • Splash sticks (to keep your coffee in your to-go cup where it belongs)
  • Products such as the Hazelnut Macchiato and cake pops

My Starbucks Idea is also a great example of a brand making use of a platform that they owned in order to engage with their fans. They might not have known it at the time of launch (or maybe they did), but Starbucks was able to keep a consistent experience on My Starbucks Idea because they did not use an external platform or social network in order to run their online community. They were not subject to trends or changes with social media platforms.

Read Next: Top crowdsourcing trends shaping the future of innovation and marketing

The ideas that also came from the platform, for the most part, were simple to consider and develop. This transparency and the relatively short timeline from idea to implementation made Starbucks fans feel like they were truly being heard by the company and that they had a say in their own experiences with the brand. My Starbucks Idea was closed in 2017 and Starbucks changed their Ideas site to a contact form.

McDonald's Mein Burger

To celebrate the Allied victory over Nazi Germany, and 40 years of American fast food served there, McDonald's released their first crowdsourcing campaign in 2011. They named the campaign "Mein Burger" which means "My Burger" in German.

This is another example of companies that use crowdsourcing first attempting it in a regional market or on a small brand. "Germany" might not be a small market by most companies, but it's almost nothing compared to the American hamburger business.

Mein Burger was a giant success, and the "Pretzelnator" was the result. Mcdonald's moved the promotion to its global market and still runs it. The focus is still on the German market.

They then produced a similar campaign called "Make Your Own Burger", which takes a different approach. Instead of having a contest, "Make Your Own Burger" is a method for individual customers to create something for themselves. The corporation then uses the data as an idea mine for deciding on their next promotional products.

Check Out: Our Innovation & Crowdsourcing page.

Samsung Palo Alto

Perhaps no other global brand has embraced the crowdsourcing concept better than Samsung. At least by the metric of how large a facility they've built, they stand alone. In Palo Alto, Samsung teamed up with the Marbler platform to launch the world's largest crowdsourcing service.

Called The Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center [SSIC], it is a global physical hub for startups, technology, and artificial intelligence movers and shakers. Samsung develops small businesses and gets the public to help improve their products via crowdsourcing.

At Samsung, a major technology company that builds technical devices for consumers and institutions, solving complex technical problems is what it's all about. They offer rewards and partner with companies that can help them engage with a pile of NASA patents that the company acquired. If you have a better way to make a laser diode, Samsung will pay you for your concept.

DARPA Prizes

Governments have crowdsourced ideas long before there were companies using crowdsourcing. The earliest known example is the 1714 Longitude Prize, offered by the British government to anyone who could come up with a better method of finding sailing ships at sea.

The US continues this tradition of finding crowdsourcing innovation examples at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Since it's inception, DARPA has been a huge proponent of crowdsourcing, with over 100 active "prize" competitions going on at one time. Things like the main "DARPA Prize", which is a million dollar competition for advanced autonomous vehicles, to things like making soldiers clothes lighter weight.

More Crowdsourcing Examples and Other Tips

These crowdsourcing examples show that the concept is a direct one-two punch for success. Not only does it generate good ideas, it also engages customers with your brand. In 2018, there isn't any reason NOT to be doing this.

If a customer wants to contact your company with a great new innovation, do you have a conversion channel to capture that enthusiasm? 

What are some of your favorite examples of crowdsourced innovation? Check out some of our favorite projects at Chaordix!

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