We are experiencing the “Apple” generation, as some call it! To me, it is realizing the power of innovation. Consumer needs are evolving with technological advances and rising economic instability. Companies must be innovative to stay ahead of the race. More and more companies are facing the brunt of not being “continuously innovative.” It is appalling to see heritage companies that were once at the forefront of innovation, heading towards bankruptcy. Porsche borrowed about a billion dollars from Volkswagen to stay afloat, while Renault has been selling off its businesses to survive, according to Business Insider.
As consultants we have the responsibility to provide companies with solutions that are forward looking. Our focus should be on truly filling the “gaps.” The core of marketing is “consumer” and everything revolves around it. So, why not let the consumers innovate? Well, the concept of consumer-led innovation is not new. Focus groups, surveys, shopper insights, ethnography are some of the tools that have been traditionally used by market researchers to delve into the consumer’s mind. The needs/problems are then taken to the drawing board and companies sketch out the details of their innovative product. So, where are we falling short?
1. What comes to the drawing board is limited to the consumer’s imagination. We need out-of-the-box thinkers.
2. What gets out of a company and into the market is limited by the skill sets hired by that company. We need more breadth and depth in innovation.
The good news is we have an abundance of innovative thinkers as well as a plethora of resourceful companies. Our job is to make the two meet. Picture the scenario where “idea” meets “advanced manufacturing capabilities,” and voila! We have crowdsourcing!
A Japanese food company crowdsourced its latest innovative product – Collagen Noodles. Coca-Cola explored the ideas for a vending machine in the form of a virtual world with no boundaries to encourage unconventional thinking. Crowdsourcing can be used to create new products, new packaging, and even new marketing slogans! I believe opening the doors to consumers is the best way to create a product that is by the people and for the people. Google releases about 100 new products weekly which range from innovative platform products like Google+ to convenient features like Priority Inbox. Some of these ideas are from Googlers, while others come from the consumers. I do recognize the cons of crowdsourcing related to a bad product idea and its effect on the brand image, but we can act as gatekeepers and establish guidelines to prevent that. The benefits are far more and futuristic to ignore the open innovation platform.
Traditionally the three c’s of marketing have been consumer, company, and competition for obvious reasons. It has been extended by some to include cost (to be mindful of its efficiency for the company) and communication (to be attentive towards the messaging that reaches the consumer).
Are we ready to make crowdsourcing the latest entrant into the marketing c’s? It reinforces the importance of “consumer,” strengthens the resources of a “company,” keeps you ahead of the “competition,” decreases “costs” and builds awareness through “communication!”
The questions we need to ask ourselves include: Are we truly innovative? Are we entrepreneurial? Can we be the leaders to initiate the change?
If we’re up to the challenge, then let’s start by creating a chain of innovative ideas or raise problems for which we don’t have answers. You never know; someone may very well have a solution that can be the next big business idea. Let me start by asking you to respond with your ideas in the comments below. Let’s try crowdsourcing SymphonyIRI style!