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12 Days of Digital – Day 9: Consumers are doing it for themselves

Companies have encouraged consumer involvement in customer service for a long time. Checking in for a flight online is a perfect example of successful consumer empowerment advantageous to business. Social technologies have enabled a shift that also sees the market becomes the provider in product design.

In 2007 Hewlett-Packard launched an online competition to design the skin of a special-edition laptop. The company promoted the contest, with their partner MTV in 13 countries across different media including TV and online.

The competition went viral; HP received more than 8,500 entries from 112 countries in just a month. The contest site got more than 5 million hits, prompting HP to re-forecast sales to five times its original estimate. It was “all because we opened the doors and allowed our customers to design our products,” Mike Mendenhall, HP’s chief marketing officer.

HP’s case study has inspired others to follow in product design. Kodak used feedback from Twitter to affect product design building several new features into a camera the give them competitive edge. It’s an interesting case study of consumer buy in, the competitive edge is not necessarily born out of using consumer insight to get the product right. It’s born out of ‘The Ikea Effect’; the overwhelming urge people have to prize something they have created, despite imperfections, above all else (and I suspect why train journeys can be so easily terrorised by ‘amusing’ children).

The shift has extended to advertising. In 2009 Unilver took the bold step to fire their existing advertising agency and embrace crowdsourcing a new Peperami campaign.

The campaign was a shift from adopting consumer generated content for advertising. It was of course a marketing opportunity in itself, the buzz created fervor amongst advertising professionals to students. We featured the reasons behind the case study at a media140 conference, a brave step for Unilver as it was scheduled before the closing date of the campaign. The ad was launched a year later.

Crowdsoucing has become an acknowledged model and big business in the advertising world. Mofilm is a site that has worked hard to build partnerships with big brands and advertise briefs for commercials to crowdsource creativity. Filmmakers, experienced and novice, have the chance to pitch for work they would never previously have heard about. Businesses have the opportunity to tap into a world of creativity.

Former BBC producer Kate Pickering has worked in broadcast, innovation and digital media for 14 years. She is Director of media140 delivering events and workshops in the UK, mainland Europe and Australia on the transformation of business using social technologies. A collaborative innovation enthusiast and a firm believer the web is for good as well as play Kate is focused on what’s new and what’s next to better business. She has recently become Innovation Programme Leader at Co-operatives UK. Connect with Kate here.

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