Based on the theory that everything has been done by someone at least once before, it makes sense to learn by example. When you are tasked with doing something as important as building a market research plan which will inform both the product development and commercial strategies, you cannot afford to get it wrong.

Revenues, market leadership and potentially the future of the company are all at stake. By using these co-creation examples to build your market research plan, you can leverage what others have done before.

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

3 categories of co-creation

We have defined co-creation as an effort, at any stage of the product development process from conception through ideation and commercialization. It is not limited to participation by end-users and customers but expanded to include members of the supply chain to market researchers and others. Everyone works collectively and collaboratively to define and redefine how products are produced, marketed and sold. Co-creation is an essential component of every market research plan. Most co-creation objectives can be classified into one of three categories:

  • Generation – when the company’s objective is ideation, product concepts, suggestions and designs are solicited from customers and/or stakeholders. Open-ended appeals or contests which often culminate with “pride not prize” victories are routinely held by companies, particularly in the CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) industry. Frito-Lay® skyrocketed to fame as a poster child for co-creation with its Doritos™ “Crash the Superbowl” amateur commercials and Lay’s™ “Do-us-a-Flavor” name that chip contests. Whichever insights or ideas are captured are then subsequently used in the design and development of new or improved products and services.
  • Refinement – as suggested by the name of this co-creation category, domain experts are generally called in at this stage to explore the “how” and idea can be converted from one has been defined as a concept but has not yet been made a reality. Here, collaborators work with company representatives to refine one or more features of a target product or service. The objective is often to help improve its physical performance, as well as its appearance, towards the goal of creating a better customer experience. Oxo Good Grips®, the brand behind accessible kitchen gadgets, refines its utensils with packaging experts who specialize in meeting the needs of people with arthritis and disabilities.
  • Creation – in the next step of the co-creation product development process, ideas are transformed into tangible objects that people can see, hold and interact with. Prototypes may be crude examples constructed with craft materials like cardboard and pipe cleaners or they may be elaborate working prototypes that can be systematically evaluated on how they perform. External collaborators work alongside the company’s professionals and staff to co-create these prototypes. Having a product that a customer can interact with affords the product developers and marketers with insights on how it should be improved to drive an enhanced customer experience. In almost all cases, the prototype needs additional refinement and improvement before it is ready for commercialization.

New examples of co-creation

Although most companies today are employing some form of co-creation in their product development process, few are making their stories public. Indeed, there is a relative sparsity of examples of co-creation. Only a handful of the “usual suspects” routinely share case studies and outcomes of their co-creation efforts. Perhaps the competitive advantage of utilizing co-creation is so critically important that companies are reluctant to divulge their secrets.

Here, we present new examples of co-creation that can be leveraged to build your market research plan. Each can be used regardless of which industry your product or service is associated with. An example of co-creation from each of the three categories of co-creation is provided below.

GenerationElectrolux is a global leader in household gadgets and appliances, selling more than forty million products to customers in more than 150 markets every year. According to its corporate website, the company bases its innovations on extensive consumer insights and designs each product thoughtfully, together, to meet the real needs of consumers and professionals. One of the sources for these innovations is the Electrolux Design Lab, a forum for generating ideas for new products and services. Established in 2003, Electrolux Design Lab hosts an annual, global competition open to undergraduate and graduate industrial design students who are invited to present innovative ideas for household appliances of the future.

RefinementNokia’s beta labs foster deep collaboration. Each site is home to domain experts across technology and communication. A high level of engagement is encouraged in order to maximize the potential for a robust design that meets the needs of all the stakeholders. Co-creation at Nokia is a 2-step process: customers are critical at the core of both steps. In the first step, Nokia unveils (with great fanfare) exciting new ideas that the company has been working on with its customers based on their suggestions and ideas. In the second step, Nokia invites select customers to suggest refinements and improvements that will make those exciting new products even better.

CreationDeutsche Bank is currently running an innovation challenge. This is something that they have done a few times as co-creation examples to generate new ideas for their products and services. With this current challenge, customers have been invited to “share your vision of how Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) can help Deutsche Bank reinvent its customer service experience.” Given some of the pitfalls and gaps that have arisen in customer service since the dawn of ATMs and given the enormous potential of A.I., this challenge should yield some fruitful results.

The intention to utilize co-creation as a component of a market research plan or as a step in the collaborative product development process is, on its own, not enough to drive value for the customer. Ongoing efforts are required to foster and nurture relationships with customers in order to yield maximum value from a co-creation initiative.

Customers need to feel like their opinions matter, and they need to see that their efforts contribute to a new product or service. Soliciting their input and participation along the co-creation continuum, from generation to refinement through creation is a proven strategy that will yield results. Similarly, these co-creation examples should spark some ideas on how to build a market research plan that can be executed effectively and lead to a successful launch of your new or improved product.

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