Co-creation: When brands and organisations develop products, services and campaigns in direct collaboration with their audiences – be it through user-generated content or insight-driven strategy. A case in point is the telecoms brands Giffgaff, which allows its customers to dictate how the brand is run – having a say in everything from product development to pricing structures.
Co-creation is the future for brands. As modern audiences increasingly reject traditional advertising messages in favour of two-way conversations, collaboration and the opportunity to create their own content, brands must adapt to survive. The smart ones are those that are prepared to shift the balance of power: democratise the way they operate and realise they need to put their audiences at the heart of their brand.
By treating audiences not as customers, but as colleagues and collaborators, brands can build trust, authenticity and transparency – all key to connecting to millennials and gen Z. And through leveraging the voices, ideas and creativity of these groups, brands will soon begin to create content, campaigns, products and services that have more meaning with the real people that use them on a daily basis – driving brand loyalty and reducing the cost and risk linked to new product development.
The following ten-step guide will show you how to build co-creation into your business model in order to achieve better audience connection, and become an organisation that better reflects the wants and needs of your customers…
Social media is no longer the only platform on which to connect with consumers; co-creation specific tech is out there, and it will make the co-creation process easier, more efficient and more effective.
Set creative challenges to your audience communities and create campaigns that both inspire and empower people to get involved and have a say. Encourage your audiences to get onboard by really communicating how much their ideas and opinions matter to your brand.
[Walkers invited people to create their own crisps flavour. 1.2 million people entered the competition. - this caption refers to the above image]
Engage with the right communities that have knowledge and experience of the products and services that you want to gain insight or content around. Connecting to targeted groups of people that actually use those products and services will gain far more relevant and valuable feedback. This can be done through engaging existing networks via databases or social media, then filtering with type forms, or utilising co-creation technology that will recruit and onboard your community for you.
Show your workings, where you source your products, who you partner with, how the brand operates and what it believes in. Invite your audience into the heart of your brand by being honest and open about the decisions you make and the way you operate. Transparency builds authenticity and trust and should be a key part of defining not just how you communicate with your customers, but with your employees as well.
Be 360 in your approach, conducting customer-led insight and journey mapping around every part of your business in order to define a blueprint for processes and customer experience. This should be done through rigorous testing of every stage of your customer’s user-journey in order to optimise their experiences, as well as by employing insight technology that connects you to your customers for constant feedback. CX (customer experience) should be central to how your brand is run and should be defined by direct customer feedback
Involve your audiences in a constant conversation, gaining insights, feedback and ideas relating to every product and service you launch – and engaging them at every stage of the decision-making process. Customer contributors are motivated by immediate and constant feedback, so ensure you have teams in place to respond to every piece of customer feedback. This might be done through social media, chatbots, online feedback panels and forums or building specific areas on your site where customers can leave and exchange ideas.
Create communities which allow your audiences to like, comment on, share and validate each other’s ideas about your brand. Better ideas come from community collaboration.
Act on feedback and implement customer ideas into the way you run your brand or develop your products and services. If the insight, feedback and content generated from your engagement mechanic are actually taken onboard, people will see that you are serious about listening to them and democratising your business. Brands should be proactive about talking about those products and services that are informed by customer input, in order not just to market their co-creation credentials but to show their audiences that they really do take their feedback and ideas seriously.
Employ mechanics that allow you to review ideas that your customers submit, make comments on them then invite your customers to develop those ideas further. In this way, you are acting as a creative director to your team of customer creatives.
Instead, use it to define how your brand grows and the new markets it grows into. Co-creation can come to define your brand identity, being part of its brand positioning and marketing strategy. Just as you involve your customer communities with product development, you should allow them to shape your brand strategy and positioning – which will lead to deeper, more far-reaching brand advocacy.