In the second installment of our three-part co-creation primer, we take a look at the most common ways that the technique can help to solve brand challenges.
1. Faster go-to-market.
Historically, brands had two options: either devise new ideas and products internally and launch them without conducting research, or base innovation on consumer insights gained over the course of iterative consumer research. While the latter generates outcomes that are more directly driven by consumer needs, the process takes months or years and can completely re-direct or de-rail the entire process along the way. Jacques Bughin of McKinsey & Company suggests that co-creation can eliminate this conundrum: “In contrast to the average practice, the masters of co-creation not only unlock value rapidly by delivering high-quality products and service innovation but also sustain that impact over time—all with little additional R&D overhead.” A methodology or approach that consolidates multiple rounds of research into one phase shortens the overall timeline necessary for crafting truly innovative ideas because it’s an iterative feedback process conducted in real time.
“There is no better way to ensure consumer relevance than to involve them in the process of developing solutions.”
2. Greater consumer relevance.
Innovation is about chasing relevance. The ultimate goal is to stay relevant to consumers through meaningful solutions and new ideas. By inviting end users to sit at the table with developers and brand managers, researchers are able to define need states, explore future use scenarios, and dig into potential feature sets while considering relative appeal and perceived benefits from a user perspective. Through five brand-specific case studies, Merve Nazlioglu of Vision Critical illustrates how insights and anecdotes gained through this process not only increase consumer relevance of the product or service created, but also can provide invaluable knowledge about positioning, marketing, packaging, and even brand architecture and portfolio whitespace. There simply is no better way to ensure consumer relevance than to involve them in the process of developing solutions to meet their existing and anticipated needs.
3. More authentic solutions.
Today consumers demand more from brands. In his book Building Brand Authenticity: 7 Habits of Iconic Brands, Michael Beverland writes, “Brand authenticity is actually derived from an ongoing interaction between the firm, its stakeholders, and society.” This suggests that in order to create a truly authentic brand, it is imperative that the brand and the consumer have “ongoing interactions,” as he calls them, to essentially collaborate on the brand’s purpose. He goes on to explain that “authentic brand stories have several authors – marketers, consumers, and society,” which is to say that every offering within a brand portfolio needs to offer value to all three vested parties. By bringing those who chart the course of the brand and the R&D teams who create and refine the brand’s touch-points into conversation and encouraging them to interact with consumers, we better enable them to design with empathy and tell stories that are created by these multiple authors simultaneously.
“The best insights in the world are useless if no one cares about them, understands them, or remembers them.”
4. Ensures alignment.
Within the world of consumer insights, one of the biggest challenges has always been socializing research. The best insights in the world are useless if no one cares about them, understands them, or remembers them. Thus, an emphasis is placed on preparing storytelling deliverables for a non-research audience, the need for advocates across the organization, and a focus on methodologies that “bring everyone along on the journey.” Ashoka, a Forbes Contributor, claims that co-creation techniques even promote alignment between corporate and social interests, resulting in insights that have an even greater positive impact on business. Co-creation involves stakeholders actually participating in the process – posing questions, collaging alongside consumers, and pushing back on details or features that are either unclear or not feasible from a development standpoint. There is no better way to ensure alignment and to build advocacy than by having internal stakeholders play an active and engaged role in the process.
5. Optimized outcomes.
Compared to a more traditional, protracted research and ideation process, co-creation actually yields better, more optimized outcomes, as well as solutions that no single party could create without collaborative interaction. Imagine the benefit of including a wide range of brains, points of view, experiences, and value systems in the innovation process. Instead of having one group define a need and then another go off and attempt to fill it, co-creation aims to leverage the various strengths and knowledge of diverse parties to arrive at an outcome that is better than that which any one group could create. Consider an analogy taken from the world of medical research. In 2009, a group of researchers at the University of Washington created an online game-like puzzle called “Fold-It” that allowed people from all over the world to compete and contribute to solving a puzzle that had remained unsolved for 15 years. By drawing on shared knowledge and perspectives, the mystery was solved in 10 days, resulting in a major breakthrough in AIDS research. Co-creation is the research and strategy equivalent of “Fold-It,” which is exciting, powerful and inspiring.