Co-creation in practice: exploring practitioner views on co-creation

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Addition to the literature review 'The co-creative consumer'. This article explores key findings of eight in-depth interviews.


Co-creation in practice Exploring practitioner views on co-creation Key findings of eight in-depth interviews This article is an addition to the authors literature review The co-creative consumer Draft version: 30th March 2011 Final corrections: 18th April 2011 Course: ECH- 80424 Program: Management, Economics and Consumer studies Student: Joyce van Dijk 841018208030 Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gerrit Antonides Institution: Wageningen University Grade: 9 (out of 10) Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 2 Preface This article is written in addition to a two-month literature study on the topic of co-creation. Next to the theoretical findings, this article contains viewpoints from people that are dealing with co-creation in their daily business practices. These practitioners offer interesting insights into the concept of co-creation, benefits, success factors, risks and challenges. Furthermore, the article provides a viewpoint on the influence of co-creation on consumer preferences and attitudes. This is especially relevant for my MSc thesis, where I will further explore the influence of co-creation on consumer attitudes. First and foremost I would like to thank the eight people that participated in the interviews; Johannes Gebauer, Ingrid de Laat, Tom de Ruyck, Johan Sanders, Martijn van Kesteren, Ruurd Priester, Michael Blankert and Will Reijnders. All of them have been very enthusiastic, patient and helpful throughout the whole research process. They have been very willing to share their time and offer me insights in to their expertise, views and feedback. I learned a lot in each interview and the participants were open to any questions or comments I additionally made. Since the space on this page is entirely reserved for a preface anyway, I would like to write a little word about each of the participants. To start with Tom de Ruyck, with whom I had a very fruitful interview, as it resulted in a sponsorship offer for my MSc thesis experiment. I am very happy with his confidence and I am looking forward to working together on this with Insites Consulting. Also I am happy that Johannes Gebauer was open to getting interviewed via the internet, because I wouldnt have been able to meet him in Germany. Johan Sanders offered me interesting insights into innovation management and I attended one of his university lectures to learn more. The interview with Martijn van Kesteren was fun, he decided to play a game and we co-created a drawing together. Michael Blankert shared some of his interesting plans for the future and gave me something to take home: the new crisps Patatje Joppie. Ingrid de Laat had already welcomed me in her office once before to discuss the topic of co-creation, and was again willing to spend an hour of her time talking with me outside her working hours. I also want to thank Ruurd Priester and Will Reijnders for being flexible with their time and providing me with an interesting interview, even after their unplanned change in schedule. Furthermore, I would like to thank all the people that have helped to get me in touch with the participants, and of course my supervisor Gerrit Antonides, who motivates and inspires me. Looking forward to talking to you again! Joyce van Dijk Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 3 Table of Contents Preface .................................................................................................................................................... 2 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 4 Research method ............................................................................................................................ 4 Participants ............................................................................................................................................. 5 Key findings ............................................................................................................................................ 6 I The role of co-creation ................................................................................................................ 6 II Benefits from co-creation ........................................................................................................... 7 III Visions on success factors ........................................................................................................... 9 IV Challenges and misunderstandings .......................................................................................... 11 V Reactions to the MSc thesis research on co-creation ............................................................... 13 VI Overview of the findings ........................................................................................................... 16 Limitations and suggestions for further research ................................................................................. 17 More information ................................................................................................................................. 18 Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 4 Introduction This article elaborates on the most interesting findings that surfaced during exploratory expert interviews about the concept of co-creation. The interviews were conducted by the author as preliminary research for an MSc Thesis about the effect of co-creation on consumer attitudes toward co-created products. The data helps gaining insight into the concept and development of co-creation from a practitioners point of view. The participants address benefits of co-creation, as well as challenges and pitfalls they have come across or experienced in their working environment. Furthermore, they give their opinion on the authors MSc thesis draft proposal and provide some useful feedback and comments. Research method Prior to the interviews, an extensive literature review was conducted to gain a broad set of knowledge about the concept of co-creation. This article forms the basis for the set-up of the interview questions. The aim of the interviews is to get more insight into the practical meaning and implications of co-creation. The eight participants have been selected based on experience, expertise and practical knowledge of co-creation. Three participants are from multinational firms in the consumer goods sectors, which have experimented with co-creation. Four participants are from agencies that serve different clients in developing and executing co-creation projects. In addition, there is also an academic with extensive marketing research experience. The interviews were conducted throughout February and March of 2011 as described in the table below (for personal descriptions see next page). The interviews lasted on average one hour and were conducted in Dutch, except for the interview with Johannes Gebauer, which was conducted in English. All interviews were recorded on audiotape, then transcribed by the author and the final transcription was checked and agreed upon by the participants. The Dutch data from the interviews is translated by the author. Full transcriptions are available on request and with agreement of the participants. Table 1: Description of the conducted interviews Participant Employer Date Standard time Location Johannes Gebauer HYVE 10th February 9.00-10.00 Via Skype (internet) Ingrid de Laat RedesignMe 11th February 11.15-12.15 Via Skype, after a prior meeting at the office in Eindhoven Tom de Ruyck Insites Consulting 16th February 10.15-11.30 Insites Consulting head office in Ghent, Belgium Johan Sanders Sara Lee 17th February 9.30-10.30 Sara Lee head office in Utrecht Martijn van Kesteren Unilever 23th February 10.15-11.15 A cafeteria in Utrecht Ruurd Priester Lost Boys 1st March 10.45-12.00 LostBoys head office in Amsterdam Michael Blankert PepsiCo 2nd March 16.00-17.00 PepsiCo head office in Utrecht Will Reijnders TiasNimbas 9th March 10.30-11.30 TiasNimbas office in Tilburg Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 5 Participants Firms Michael Blankert, Consumer Engagement Manager at PepsiCoi. Blankert was actively involved in the first PepsiCo co-creation-type campaign in Holland; Lays Maak de Smaakii. This cross-media project was an open call to all Dutch consumers to come-up with a new flavour. The campaign is now one of the biggest and best-known co-creation/crowdsourcing campaigns in Holland, and won the 2010 NIMA awardiii for customer-oriented entrepreneurship. Martijn van Kesteren, Consumer Insights Manager at Unileveriv. Within Unilever Van Kesteren consults on marketing strategy and market research within the product categories ice-cream and beverages. He was involved in e.g. an online research community for Ben & Jerrys fansv, aimed at connecting and generating new consumer insights. Johan Sanders is Innovation Manager at Sara Leevi. Sanders was indirectly involved in co-creation projects for Senseo coffeevii and Pickwick teaviii. The Pickwick Dutch Blend, launched in October 2010, was the result of a collaboration between Pickwick-Hyves members and experts from the firm. The co-creation aspect was communicated in the nationwide advertising campaign. Agencies Ingrid de Laat, Co-creation Consultant at RedesignMeix; an agency specialized in co-creation to generate new insights, product ideas or designs. De Laat translates firms challenges to creative assignments for teams of consumers and experts. RedesignMe works with firms such as Sara Lee, Albert Heijn, Honig and Schiphol. Ruurd Priester, Strategy Director at Lost Boys International (LBi)x; a full-service agency that creates online strategies and campaigns for client firms such as Anne Frank Stichting, ANWB, Interpolis en Nuon. Priesters starting point is user-centred thinking and focusing on creating complete consumer experiences. Tom de Ruyck, Sr. R&D Manager at Insites Consultingxi; a full-service marketing consultancy and research agency. De Ruyck is an expert on innovative research methods such as chat, blog research, online brainstorms and co-creation communities. He has worked on co-creation projects for Kraft Foods, Telenet, Friesland Campina and Heinz. Johannes Gebauer, Team Manager of the HYVE Innovation Communityxii. HYVE is a German innovation agency that constructs, manages and engages online communities in firms innovation processes. Gebauer has done consumer involvement projects for e.g. Henkel, Tchibo and Swarovski. Academic Prof. dr. Will Reijnders, professor and director of the Executive Master of Marketing Program at TiasNimbas Business Schoolxiii. Besides that, Reijnders takes part in supervisory boards for various institutions and is a management consultant. His expertise is mainly on strategic marketing issues such as client value creation and cross channel marketing Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 6 Key findings I The role of co-creation The concept of co-creation Participants agree that co-creation is a term that is connected to a broad spectrum of consumer involvement in innovation, research and marketing projects. It is also often referred to as a hyped terminology, a popular modern marketing term. De Ruyck distinguishes between two categories of co-creation; co-creation in the narrow sense and co-creation in the broad sense. In the narrow sense it concerns close collaboration between firms and consumers to generate new product ideas. Co-creation in the broad sense comprises only specific aspects of product development or innovation processes. This is what we do quite a lot, and it is often aimed at product improvement, such as packaging, De Ruyck explains. One reason that co-creation in the broad sense is applied more often can be that it is relatively easy to implement in traditional processes. Priester also distinguishes between types of co-creation and identifies (1) process co-creation, involving designing or and developing a product or service; (2) service-related co-creation; focused on interaction and consumer feedback; and the more intensive (3) co-creation of campaigns. He illustrates the latter type by referring to an online campaign for Zwitsal baby care productsxiv. The goal was to start an online conversation with (future) moms. Priester: On the website they can exchange experiences, get answers to their questions, watch videos about childcare and ask Zwitsal experts for advice. Van Kesteren sees co-creation in the purest sense as a collaboration between consumers and companies aimed at addressing relevant needs. However, he argues, the term is often used as a buzz word and some companies place too much responsibility on consumers. Van Kesteren: You should not expect consumers to independently come up with an innovative and relevant solution. He stresses co-creation should always be a joint collaboration and companies should provide relevant inputs and concepts, such that consumers can effectively respond to this. Gebauer states that co-creation is sometimes misjudged by firms as a marketing tool, something that can be used to enhance sales. He argues that this desired marketing effect can only result from a true authentic collaboration between firms and consumers. If there is no authenticity and selling is the main goal of the firm, consumers will sense this and the co-creation will fail, Gebauer says. A changing landscape The participants were asked to provide their visions on the current consumer-producer relations and whether these have changed throughout the last decade. The participants agree that nowadays firms have to be more transparent in their information provision. They need to justify whatever they claim in order to convince consumers. This is often linked to internet savvy consumers who are highly informed and scrutinize information. Gebauer notes that consumers are also more personally engaged in brands and products. Consumers are now suddenly in charge and consider brands and products as their own property, to state it provocatively, Gebauer explains. Participants are well aware that firms that dont live up to their promises or consumer expectations, run the risk of being criticized in the mass media. Priester underlines the importance of connected online networks: () you end up in a Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 7 network of consumers and producers. By means of co-creation you jointly generate value. You use the network to test ideas and to show what the firm is doing. Reijnders has high expectations of the future role of co-creation, although he notes that in practice changes happen quite slowly and a lot still needs to happen. Firms are in general still quite process- and product oriented, he notes. Reijnders argues that orientation differs per sector and once the pressure increases firms often become more alert and externally oriented. He sees co-creation as a logical consequence of e.g. the current buyers marketwith a surplus of products and firms often competing on priceand commoditization, making it difficult for consumers to differentiate between products. Firms have to focus on creating a more long-term competitive advantage by being consumer-centric and providing the best service and experiences. New routes have to be developed to get closer to the consumer, and co-creation is one of these routes, Reijnders argues. II Benefits from co-creation Firm related benefits Participants agree that when co-creation is applied successfully, it can have different positive influences and effects. One benefit is that interacting with consumers and getting their inputs and feedback can inspire firms in their product development. Blankert: Involving consumers generates a richness of ideas: the winning flavor in our Maak de Smaak campaign, Patatje Joppie, was something we would never have come up with ourselves. Van Kesteren notes that a long-term collaboration, e.g. via an online consumer community, offers more iteration possibilities. There is a longer lasting dialogue, more room to react on feedback and more time to think about the matters that are discussed. Van Kesteren: It feels like having a direct lifeline with consumers, you can ask questions instantly. Co-creating with enthusiastic brand fans positively influences the internal team (Blankert, Van Kesteren, Sanders). Having conversations with these highly involved consumers gives a positive energy boost to the internal team, Van Kesteren says. Priester elaborates on the benefits co-creation can have for firms: You return to the core of added value; consumer value and experience. You reduce costs by having a direct dialogue with consumers () and create a more lean and mean organization. When firms succeed in developing more relevant products, Priester argues this creates a pull market and firms can reduce marketing budgets. Sanders explains co-creation also positively affects the innovation process: You work according to a tight schedule with predetermined deadlines and this makes the innovation process more tangible, he argues. Consumer related benefits Throughout the interviews it is pointed out that consumers in turn also benefit from co-creation. Their involvement allows them to influence and contribute to product development, they can directly communicate needs and evaluate ideas. Besides that, co-creation is also a fun activity: consumers feel in charge and empowered, which results in a feeling of joy, as Gebauer states. At the same time firms can build a strong and positive relationship with consumers, since both parties spend a lot of time and effort, according to Gebauer. Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 8 In the case of RedesignMe co-creators can also be professionals, and they can benefit by working flexible hours and earning money for their contributions. De Laat: Our community offers beginning designers and marketers the opportunity to gain experience and to demonstrate their skills. Practicing creative skills and gaining experience can be beneficial to consumers personal or professional development. Product and brand related benefits All participants agree that co-creation can enhance relevance of the product for consumers, and makes products more suited to future needs. By constantly interacting with their target group firms can retrieve and implement up-to-date information. It is no longer about products, but about creating a superior experience, Priester argues. It requires exactly knowing in what way you can be relevant to the consumer, he adds. De Laat explains another reason why consumer involvement can result in a better product. Co-creation can enhance the balance between a product design and its functionality, she argues. Participants agree that new products resulting from co-creative processes can positively affect brand perception, and create an open and empathic brand image. Chances increase that you generate brand value and brand preference, Priester argues. Consumers feel more involved with the firm, are better able to identify themselves with the brand and have the feeling their feedback is taken seriously, he adds. Blankert: By means of co-creation you can get closer to consumers, () consumers will feel more connected to your brand. He says that many consumers are quite critical toward multinationals because of their closed image, and co-creation can change this. Participants agree that satisfactory collaborations can turn co-creators into brand ambassadors, promoting and talking about the brand with friends and peers. Van Kesteren argues co-creation is especially useful for niche markets or specialized products. You are often not a part of this group yourself, so it is quite difficult to imagine yourself in their position, Van Kesteren says. He illustrates this with the example of NIKE SD skateboarding equipment: In this case it would be best to involve the skaters themselves to find out what is trendy and hip according to them, he explains. Sales effects Co-creation can be used to draw extra attention to a product introduction, Sanders says. Due to this extra attention the product probably attracts more people than usually. Sanders relates this to the launch of the co-created Pickwick Dutch Tea blend, which is sold much more than their other line-extensions within tea blends. Perhaps not just because of the co-creation process, but also because of the buzz that resulted from the enthusiasm within Sara Lee and among the consumers that participated in developing the blend, Sanders notes. The co-creation aspect was emphasized in the advertising campaign around the Pickwick Dutch Blend. We referred to the co-creators on the packaging and in the advertising campaign, Sanders says. The campaign shows how consumers were involved throughout the development and taste process and there is also a reference to the Hyves page where the collaboration started. Blankert discusses the results of the Maak de Smaak campaign, which had significantly higher scores on brand loyalty and brand activation aspects than other campaigns. Participation also highly exceeded PepsiCos expectations: There were 311,000 unique participants and we expected around 150,000 beforehand, Blankert reads from the data. Sales levels were even three times higher than expected during the final stage, where consumers could purchase and vote for one of the three flavors. Blankert: The three final flavors were available for only two months and the Lays Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 9 team expected sales of about 2 million bags. However, the final sales number was 6 million. The Lays team was quite overwhelmed by the success and buzz around the campaign. The success is probably due to the involvement of consumers, Blankert says, the flavors were invented by the consumers themselves and the winning flavor was also chosen by them. The successful Maak de Smaak campaign inspired PepsiCo to set up a new team that completely focuses on consumer engagement. Critical notes Priester notes that it is not always necessary to involve consumers in order to create relevant products. A firm can also successfully apply the principle of co-creation and consumer-centric thinking, he argues. Take Apple as an example; their innovation is fairly closed, but they have extremely good client-centered designers. Van Kesteren also supports this view: A good marketer should be able to place themselves in the consumers position and imagine what their needs and wants are. He argues that a co-created product therefore doesnt have to be any better or more relevant than products developed mostly by a company. III Visions on success factors The co-creation process Several success factors were mentioned by the participants, such as the need for good project management and effective and constant interaction with the co-creative consumers. It is considered very important that these consumers receive quality feedback, inspiration and encouragement. Participants also stressed the importance of adapting business processes to facilitate co-creation. This helps firms to become more flexible and able to quickly follow through on co-creation outcomes. Priester: firms need to open up to new ideas, dare to let go of control, dare to enter new markets and diverge from old ways of thinking an doing. According to him firms should experiment in order to find out what works best. Reijnders argues for developing new disciplines within firms, as co-creation and working with online communities require certain management skills. It is considered important that co-creation is recognized and supported by the whole firm, only then can it be successful and integrated into the business process. Once you open the doors to co-creation, it is difficult to close them, De Laat explains, It often brings about an online discussion that continues after a project ends. Transparency and consistency in behavior is underlined. Firms should show what happens to the co-creation results and how they are implemented by the firm. This creates a willingness among consumers to collaborate and share ideas with the firm, Priester says. De Ruyck: Firms should explain and demonstrate what co-creation comprises and how it was executed. This makes the co-creation claim legitimate and easier for consumers to trust, De Ruyck argues. If firms do not do this, consumers might consider the co-creation claim a marketing trick, a tactic to increase sales (De Ruyck, Van Kesteren). Involving the right consumers Another important factor that influences success is carefully identifying and involving the right people to co-create with. Deciding which consumers to involve depends on the type of task and required skills and expertise. De Ruyck: We shouldnt underestimate the average consumers Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 10 innovation competence, but also definitely not overestimate it. He argues that complex and technical tasks should be allocated to the more technically able consumers. Reijnders agrees that deciding who to involve should depend on the question at hand. He refers to the HEMA design contestxv as an example. This contest is purely aimed at design academy students, since HEMA considers them to be the appropriate participants for this creative task. Participants agree that for intensive collaborations, firms should focus on lead-users, who are highly involved and knowledgeable about a product category or brand. According to De Ruyck they can be subdivided into influentials and innovators. The innovators are always looking for the latest developments, they want to purchase and try out new products immediately and are often a step ahead of others, De Ruyck explains. The influentials are also highly interested in new trends, but are more communicative and take into account the needs of others. Therefore the influentials are often involved in other peoples decisions, according to De Ruyck. De Laat foresees a future challenge when it comes to attracting co-creative consumers or designers. She expects an increase of co-creation projects, resulting in a greater demand of participants. The more co-creation initiatives, the more challenging it becomes to get people enthousiastic about participating and keep them actively involved, De Laat explains. Dilemma: intensive VS mass collaboration Van Kesteren offers some critical remarks on selecting only innovative and creative consumers. He argues that in doing so firms are not collaborating with a representative cross-section of their target group. Gebauer also stresses the importance of finding a balance: involving lead-users is very important, but average users are also valuable for giving critical feedback and evaluating the work of others. According to Sanders, it is important to find the right balance in order to create added value. The benefit of involving many consumers, e.g. via a cross-media campaign, is that it creates a buzz and raises awareness of the product. Involving a smaller selection of consumers allows for a more intensive and close collaboration, but requires more advertising effort during the product launch. You need to foster a strong commitment and manage the project well; this is best achieved by co-creating with a restricted group, Sanders argues. However, you need to be cautious not to involve too few people, because then you miss out on important insights, he adds. Blankert notes that co-creation is really difficult to pursue through a big or nationwide project such as the Maak de Smaak campaign. He considers the project to be more crowdsourcing than co-creation, since intensive consumer interaction and collaboration was limited. What you actually want (in co-creation) is to involve the consumers that are closest to your brand, the most loyal fans, Blankert argues. These consumers are very involved and are intrinsically motivated to contribute something to the brand. Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 11 IV Challenges and misunderstandings Expectations The general opinion is that firms as well as consumers should have a clear idea of the purpose of the co-creation (is it aimed at e.g. a radical innovation, a line extension, or a new packaging?). This helps to manage expectations and to prevent disappointment. Sanders: It is important to frame the task well, to indicate what the co-creation comprises and what preconditions are. Some participants mention that consumers are much more able to react on something innovative, than to come up with it (Priester, Sanders, Van Kesteren). This is linked to the difficulty for consumers to identify their latent needs. Van Kesteren therefore considers co-creation mainly as a market research tool as opposed to an innovation tool: I consider the added value to be especially in consumer feedback, which can be used to optimize processes and products. De Ruyck refers to research indicating that consumers have very need-relevant ideas, but generally not more innovative ideas than firms. Firms are thus considered to have an important role in unraveling latent needs and in this sense help consumers innovate. Attitude change All participants address the challenge for firms to conform their whole attitude and behaviour to co-creation and open innovation. De Ruyck notes that firms hesitance to implement co-creation, is also partly caused by a lack of evidence to convince managers about the benefits and effects. Furthermore employees may fear losing control over their jobs because consumers are taking over, and this can make them reluctant to incorporate co-creation (De Ruyck, Sanders). Blankert also points out that it requires quite a lot of internal discussions and meetings to really change attitudes or processes towards co-creation. Authentic involvement from the firm is considered a crucial factor, because the focus should be on interaction and constructive collaboration. Priester: This requires a paradigm shift; firms should become creative from the inside out, instead of towards the outside. He says that it will not work if firms are active in social media, but are not embracing open-network innovation and learning from others. Consumers will not take the efforts seriously. Gebauer argues: This means working hard to change the not invented here attitude, where ideas coming from outside of the firm are hard to accept and to adopt. Reijnders notes co-creation doesnt imply completely letting go of control and management; Firms should prepare the process well, determine objectives, use the right tools and involve the right target group, he explains, directing and managing the process is crucial. Reijnders illustrates this with an example of a housing project, where future home owners could co-create a new neighborhood. The co-creation platform was not managed properly and a lot of information and ideas were submitted by a great variety of people, but there was no constructive discussion among the target group, Reijnders explains. De Laat underlines this and argues that firms should not just drop a question, and then wait for a useful discussion to arise, but they should be reactive and feed the discussion. Gebauer illustrates this with an experience from an online design contest within a co-creation community, where the winning design was finally chosen by a jury. However, the jury did not directly motivate their choice to the community, who in turn felt disappointed and disagreed with the decision. Gebauer: From this we understood that the jury should have reacted straight away and explained why they chose the winning design. A conflict was luckily prevented in this case, but it shows that Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 12 managing online communities requires constant attention and feedback. Firms should also be prepared to deal with negative comments and responses. Setting objectives De Laat addresses the challenge for firms to formulate a concrete goal for the co-creation project. Firms often dont exactly know yet what to expect from co-creation and which target group they should involve, De Laat explains. She says that most often firms want to gain insights, but also have marketing objectives in mind. Gebauer notes that co-creation can result in concepts and ideas that firms didnt foresee beforehand. Product ideas have to fit within a certain price range, planning and distribution channel. If the co-creation output does not fit into this plan, managers might not want to accept this output as a valuable resource, he argues. Firms should thus become more flexible and adaptive in their planning and development process. Insecurity Reijnders notes that firms should be aware that co-creation doesnt produce ready-made products, but mainly ideas and concepts. He also notes that co-creation is not a fixed process and firms should experiment and try new things to find out what is most effective. What works today, might not work tomorrow, Reijnders notes, firms have to remain constantly alert because markets and technologies change quickly. This insecurity is also underlined by Blankert, since the Maak de Smaak campaign offered consumers a lot of freedom. It was difficult to estimate how many people were going to submit their ideas and the Lays team had no idea of the flavours consumers would come up with. Blankert: This was risky, because we didnt know whether our R&D department could transform the submitted ideas into actual tasty products. Partly for this reason, the selection of finalists was done by a jury of experts from different fields (including one consumer). This helped to ensure that only the most promising and tasty products would make it to the finale. The online aspect of the campaign also caused some concern: the submissions were directly visible to everybody via a live stream, Blankert says. It was not possible to filter submissions and completely rule out rude or offensive messages. We built in a filter for swear words, Blankert explains, but even then you can not completely rule out abuse, so we had to let go of some level of control. Consumer-related challenges The general opinion is that consumers are quite understanding and flexible. They realize there are restrictions to their influence and boundaries to a firms possibilities in innovation. Van Kesteren: My experience is that consumers realize that not everything is possible and ideas have to be in line with the companys management. Participants acknowledge that consumers at least expect recognition, as a sort of reward, for the effort and time they invested in co-creation. Priester warns: They might expect their ideas to be implemented directly. For this reason he considers it very important to keep consumers informed about progress and next steps after the initial co-creation project is completed. Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 13 V Reactions to the MSc thesis research on co-creation Visions on the effect of co-creation on consumer attitudes The effect of co-creation on consumer attitudes is little explored and none of the participants have any research results or data on this. Often direct effects of campaigns are measured such as sales data and product and brand performance. The net effect or influence of co-creation has not been measured. A reason for the lack of research can be that there are still not many practical examples and co-creation cases. It is also noted that co-creation not always results in actual product development. It might be the case that the firm decides not to develop or market the product, or that the co-creation results are merely used as inspiration for a firms product development process. De Laat points out that their main objective is not necessarily aimed at a tangible outcome. For us the desired effect is inspiring our client en taking them a step further in their product or service development, De Laat explains. Participants are positive about the impact co-creation can have on consumers brand and product attitude. Sanders says co-creation can create a sense of closeness: It is important that consumers can identify with your brand, and co-creation can help realize this. Gebauer is confident that new co-created products will perform better on average, compared to new producer-created products. He relates this partly to trustworthiness: Consumers have far more confidence in peer recommendations than in advertising. About 95% of consumers trust recommendations from peers or from a community they can identify with, he adds. De Ruyck points out that it is difficult to isolate the effect since there are many external influences, such as quality of the final product and communication and marketing effort. He expect that knowing more about the effects will help firms decide whether or not to start co-creating. Priester believes the main effect would be in creating a superior consumer experience, so the effect should be measured on experiential aspects. Co-creation as product communication Participants indicate that there are still few examples of co-creation being communicated to the public in advertising and marketing communications. De Laat notes that firms more often refer to results of consumer research or panels. Then consumers opinions are used to recommend the product, according to De Laat. A reason that co-creation is not broadly communicated could have to do with a lack of confidence about the effects co-creation on brand equity and perception. Firms could still be a bit hesitant and want to protect the original brand. Or firms might want to present new products as the result of the firms own innovation efforts. Gebauer notes there might a fear that co-creation provokes negative attitudes. Consumers could for instance start thinking that the firm is not able to come up with its own ideas anymore, Gebauer says. Co-creation sometimes occurs in a very early stage of the development cycle, and the direct link to the final product is then missing. This can be a reason why co-creation is not considered relevant to communicate to the end-user. Reijnders gives an example of a father buying a LEGO toy for a childs birthday: For him it is not interesting to know that the product is the result of co-creation via Lego Mindstormsxvi. Sanders beliefs co-creation is interesting to communicate, but the product itself remains the Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 14 most important, not its development process. Sanders: However, you can use the co-creation aspect to draw attention to the product and make people think about the brand again. The best way to communicate co-creation When thinking about ways to communicate co-creation to the public, all participants stress the importance of justifying the claim. It is considered very important to explain how and why co-creation was applied. Showing the process, via photos or short movies, might help consumers understand the process better and increase confidence. Priester: I think it is important to support the interaction, not just tell the message. Transaction and communication are interwoven, consumers should be able to directly react. De Ruyck also stresses the importance of being open and providing proof, by e.g. showing the co-creation process. Otherwise you run the risk that co-creation is perceived as an empty claim, which consumers will distrust because of the current presence of numerous product claims, De Ruyck argues. De Laat suggests: Firms can stress what needs a co-created product fulfills and explain their reasons for participating in co-creation and how this changed their innovation process. Gebauer says it can be beneficial to refer to an established and well-known brand community. He uses the example of Tchiboxvii, a high-end coffee brand that is Germanys market leader in roasted coffee (ICP, 2011). Tchibo has an online brand communityxviii of about 9100 members and a selection of these participated in the co-creation of products. The consumer collaboration was referred to in product communication. This can be of added value to the Tchibo brand, and can be seen as a form of co-branding where the community is the additional brand. Research shows that consumers like products that have been developed by people like themselves, Gebauer explains. Blankert stresses weighing out what aspects of co-creation are relevant to communicate about. When placing emphasis on the individual consumers that were involved in co-creation, people might start judging them personally instead of judging the product. Thus when consumers start evaluating the co-creative consumers, attention can be drawn away from the product, Blankert argues. Expected effects on attitude During the interview participants were asked their opinion on the likelihood of certain effects to occur in consumers evaluation of co-created products. The responses to the sub questions are summarized in table 2: the full questions and a count of the results is given below the table. Some participants remarked that effects are often related to brand perception, not merely to the product itself. Thus, the aspect of brand identity can play a role in the strength of the effect of co-creation on consumers attitude. It is also commented that effects depend on how the co-creation was executed and communicated. Furthermore, the overall behavior of the firm also influences consumer attitude; how often open innovation and co-creation is applied. For the aspects of trying out co-creation products, it is noted that this depends on the risk perception. People are more inclined to try out products that they consider having a relatively low risk. Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 15 Table 2: sub questions and summary of the participants expectations Question: How likely do you think consumers (likely, unlikely, unsure/dont know) a) will consider co-created products better/ higher in quality than similar producer created products? Likely (3x), unsure (2x), not likely (3x) b) will consider co-created products more attractive than similar producer created products? Likely (5x), unsure (2x), not likely (1x) c) will consider co-created products more innovative than similar producer created products? Likely (4x), unsure (2x), not likely (2x) d) will consider co-created products more fitted to their needs than similar producer created products? Likely (7x), not likely (1x) e) will consider co-created brands more accessible than non-co-creative brands? Likely (7x), unsure (1x) f) will consider co-created brands more empathic/ closer to them than non-co-creative brands? Likely (7x), unsure (1x) g) will be more inclined to try co-created products than similar producer created products? Likely (4x), unsure (2x), not likely (2x) h) will be more inclined to talk about co-created products than similar producer created products? Likely (5x), unsure (3x) Further suggestions for the experiment Participants were asked what type of products they consider most interesting to test in the MSc thesis experiment. The general suggestions are to test products with a short development cycle, digital services such as apps, or any FMCG product that consumers often use and has a low risk perception. One suggestion is testing the differences between effects for slow-movers and fast-movers and control for brand influences such as familiarity and preferences. Another suggestion is testing products that are often bought on impulse, since consumers usually have a low brand loyalty towards these products and it is expected that effects of co-creation will be higher for these products. Subquestion BlankertVan KesterenSanders De Laat Priester De Ruyck Gebauer Reijndersa Unlikely Unsure Unlikely Unlikely Likely Unsure Likely Likelyb Likely Unsure Unsure Likely Likely Unlikely Likely Likelyc Unsure Likely Unlikely Likely Likely Unlikely Likely Unsured Likely Likely Unlikely Likely Likely Likely Likely Likelye Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Unsuref Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Unsureg Likely Likely Unlikely Likely Likely Likely Unsure Unsureh Likely Likely Likely Likely Likely Unsure Unsure UnsureJoyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 16 VI Overview of the findings This table offers a summarised overview of the aspects on which respondents seem to agree on, versus aspects on which they have different views or of which they were unsure. Agreement Disagreement / unsure General Consumers are savvy, critical and empowered Consumers seek evidence to support/discredit marketing claims Firms should provide transparent and sufficient information Co-creation Co-creation requires a continuous dialogue between firms and consumers (not a question-answer approach) Firms should assist consumers in uncovering latent needs and offer them relevant insights to enhance the effectiveness of the co-creation Co-creation with brand fans brings inspiration and positive energy to the internal team Expectations about outcomes need to be clear and realistic to prevent disappointment Innovation processes need to become more flexible to incorporate unexpected outcomes of co-creation Firms should be willing to let go of some level of control to allow for co-creation and creativity Co-creative consumers Co-creative consumers enjoy co-creating and are often intrinsically motivated to participate Co-creative consumers understand there are boundaries to their influence Co-creative consumers require constant feedback and encouragement Deciding what consumers to involve in co-creation depends on the task and context (e.g. lead users versus average users) Communication of co-creation (on the market) Explain and show the co-creation process and how it differs from the traditional approach; this makes it easier for consumers to understand and trust the concept co-creation Co-creation should only be communicated when it is considered relevant for consumers to know Co-creation should only be communicated when it is has been an important aspect in the product development. Effects on consumer attitudes Effects of co-creation on brand perception and consumer attitudes have not been measured yet Co-creation is expected to create a more open and empathic brand perception Effects depend on pre-existing brand attitude and how co-creation is executed and communicated Co-creation Co-creation is a new innovation paradigm (a new way of thinking and acting) versus co-creation is a modern research tool to get closer to the consumer Co-creation makes the innovation process more efficient (set schedule and timings) versus co-creation is difficult to implement in traditional processes What method to choose? Crowdsourcing: cross-media exposure and mass response versus co-creation: low key collaboration with selected lead-users Co-creation helps to create more relevant products versus Consumer-centric marketers dont need co-creation to develop relevant products What withhold firms from co-creating? e.g. a lack of evidence on the benefits, a resistance to change current processes, a not invented here syndrome Communication of co-creation (on the market) Communicating co-creation draws more attention to new products versus co-creation is not useful to communicate when it is not relevant for consumers to know How to communicate co-creation to the general target group? e.g. showing who was involved in the co-creation, or merely focusing on the benefits of the process Effects on consumer attitudes Expected positive effects of co-creation on brand perception (e.g. trust and identification with peers) versus expected negative effects (experts might be considered better at developing products than peers) Participant are unsure about what effects can be expected (see table 2) Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 17 Limitations and suggestions for further research Limitations of the method The research method of interviewing allows participants to elaborate on their own views and deviate from the original questions to explore topics further. The method also has some limitations that have to be taken into account. These limitations are described and elaborated on by Malterud (2001). First of all, all research is interpretive and subject to reflexivity; it is guided by the authors set of beliefs and views about how things should be understood and studied. Selection and formulation of the questions, as well as selection of participants, is by default a subjective matter. The authors interview skills and experience also influence the quality of the method and the final outcome of the research. Participants might present themselves in a way they want to be viewed by the interviewer, causing self-presentation bias. The communication between interviewer and interviewee is aimed at establishing rapport and retrieving unaided responses, but can unintentionally influence responses. Also, participants might not be aware of all the influences that affect their behavior and opinions, restricting the data to the participants level of sensitivity and insight into certain situations. In accordance with the explorative nature of this qualitative research, there is room for the participants to elaborate more or less on certain aspects. This is done according to participants indirect or direct indication of interests, expertise and experience. For this reason some questions are elaborated on more than others, and some have even been skipped in order to focus on the topic of choice. Suggestions for further research The interviews were conducted in addition to an extensive literature review on the topic of co-creation, which can be downloaded as a .pdf document from the weblog This article summarizes the interview results with the purpose of shedding more light on practitioners views and expectations of co-creation. Subsequently, further research will be done by the author in a Master thesis. The aim of the thesis is to find effects of co-creation on consumer attitudes, brand perception and product evaluation. The main question is whether and how the method of co-creation in product development affects brand value and consumer attitudes. A minority of consumers is actively participating in co-creation, so a majority of a firms target group is only confronted with the concept after the product has already been developed. As soon as the final co-created product is available for sale, firms can communicate the aspect of co-creation via advertising or product packaging and presentation. Will consumers consider co-created brands more empathic, more open to their ideas? Will co-creation instigate more word-of-mouth? The general hypothesis is that co-creation positively influences consumer attitude and brand perception. More information about the Master thesis research can be found on Further research can be done on identifying critical success factors of co-creation in order to find out how the process can be optimized. In addition it would be interesting to find out what type of consumers are best suitable for different co-creation tasks. Then, it is interesting to research in what way these people can best be recruited and selected. Joyce van Dijk April 2011 Exploring practitioner views on co-creation page 18 More information Follow the provided links: i ii iii iv v vi vii viii ix x xi xii xiii xiv xv xvi xvii xviii


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