Consumer Co-Creation: Using Research to Create the Future

Consumer Co-Creation: Using Research to Create the Future

The idea of consumer co-creation has always been at the heart of marketing research. Whenever a consumer shares their opinions, customer experiences, or perceptions with you, they’re helping create the future for your brand. However, to maintain objectivity, traditional marketing research keeps a certain distance between consumers and brand marketers. Co-creation research has been gaining in popularity. One reason is the effectiveness of having consumers and brand stakeholders collaborate directly to solve key marketing issues. Here’s a look at some of the unique advantages of co-creation sessions and considerations when conducting them.

Consumer co-creation can mean different things to different people. For some, it can include research using online consumer communities. Others refer to crowdsourcing projects or even contests for consumer-generated content as examples of co-creation in action. Here, we’re talking about in-person, qualitative sessions that bring consumers and brand stakeholders together. The objective is to create something new like product concepts, ways to improve product performance or solutions to key consumer problems. Key features of co-creation sessions include:

  • Focus on accomplishing a specific task – All participants share a common objective, to create something new during the session.
  • Minimize the distance between consumer and brand – Key brand stakeholders are included as fully participating respondents along with consumers.
  • Select participants with collaborative and creative skill sets – Curiosity, open-mindedness, and inventiveness are key traits of the most productive co-creation team members.

Completing the Task at Hand

Consumer co-creation studies are essentially brainstorming work sessions. The goal at the end of the study is to have well developed solutions to the question at hand. This is a key difference from traditional qualitative research which provides consumer feedback on a topic area, rather than solutions. Instead, co-creation projects result in valuable new stimulus such as detailed new product ideas, innovative workflow changes, or product design improvements. Often, next steps include having internal stakeholders refine the output and then validating consumer interest, appeal, and likelihood to purchase in future research.

Breaking Down Barriers

The defining feature of co-creation projects is the direct collaboration between consumers and brand stakeholders, led by a group moderator. It’s important that all participants clearly understand their roles:

  • Moderator facilitates the discussion and various exercises
  • Consumers share their personal experiences, observations, and suggestions
  • Brand stakeholders share their professional experiences, observations, and seek clarification from consumers

For many consumers and brand stakeholders alike, this is a unique brand experience. It’s important to ensure input is received in a respectful and professional way. Although consumers and brand stakeholders are working together, brand stakeholders are still in a position of authority by virtue of their professional experience and wealth of inside knowledge.

Recruiting the Right Mix of People

When planning a co-creation project, additional screening criteria for potential participants needs to be considered. These types of blue-sky collaborations require soft skills like the ability to think creatively, work well in group settings, and enjoy problem-solving. Some people are more comfortable than others with the ambiguity, open parameters, and rapid brainstorming techniques involved in co-creation exercises. Therefore, it’s important to include relevant screening criteria to identify participants who will be as productive and interactive as possible.

Co-Creation Doesn’t Replace Traditional Marketing Research

Co-creation research doesn’t replace traditional marketing research initiatives, but rather serves as a supplemental tool. They can be an effective way to tap into the rich experiences and unique perspectives of your target audience coupled with the expertise of internal stakeholders. The unique advantages of this customer-centric approach can help you obtain optimized results that may not have been uncovered without direct consumer collaboration. By bringing both parties to the table, literally, you are able to get more work done, in less amount of time, with greater insight and understanding.


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