Co-creation: The Future For Brands – Part 1

By Michael Wylie-Harris

Co-creation: When brands and organisations develop products, services and campaigns in collaboration with their customers. The co-creation process gives voices to real people, empowering them to create richer brand experiences and develop products and services that better resonate with themselves and their peers.

This article forms the introduction to a co-creation white paper published by audience collaboration tech firm, Bulbshare. We will be serialising it in three parts and publishing over the following three weeks. The entire report can be downloaded for free here.

Co-creation is the future for brands. As audiences increasingly seek 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, give audiences a say, realise they need to put consumers at the heart of their brand. The brands that will own the future, are those that co-create.

In an age when audiences are increasingly cynical towards brands, trust, authenticity and transparency are all key. Co-creation is the most direct way of achieving this. For a more savvy, entrepreneurial generation of consumers – with the technology at their fingertips to connect to brands when and where they want to – the brands to trust, the brands to love, the brands to recommend to friends are those that treat them not as customers, but as colleagues and collaborators.

Co-creation is about leveraging the voices, ideas and opinions of real people to create better products and services, as well as brands that are more in touch with their customers. Done right, it reduces the distance between company and consumer, drives brand loyalty and reduces the cost and risk linked to new product development.

In Bulbshare’s exclusive co-creation survey, 81% of consumers said that brands which collaborate with their customers are more authentic, 86% said brands that co-create are more trustworthy, and 79% felt that being involved in a brand’s online community would make them feel more involved with that brand.

A New Era

This is the era of co-creation. Consumer attitudes have changed and marketing messages that seek to interrupt and sell rather than interact and engage are falling on deaf ears. According to the Harvard Business Review 2017, ‘trust in brands is an all-time low’. There are currently 200 million users of ad-blockers worldwide, according to Business Insider, and 33% of online adds don’t generate awareness or drive any lift in purchase intent (Nielsen 2016).

A direction reaction to this trend, co-creation doesn’t treat customers as mere consumers – it allows them to add value by putting them at the core of the business. Modern audiences are no longer passive. They are active creators of content and insight with the tools at their fingertips to promote, market and advertise your brand on the most public and affective of forums – so why not leverage that power?

Co-creation is all about that one, very simple idea: that working together is better.

The thought that when we collaborate, when we listen to each other, when we embody a community spirit, we’ll create something far better than if we don’t listen, if we work in silos, if we resist the collaborative process. It goes beyond asymmetrical relationships where a brand sits on the one side and the user or customer on the other. It’s about acknowledging that all parties bring different expertise to the process, and that these different forms of expertise are of equal value and fundamental to this collaboration.

Many forward-thinking brands are already reaping the benefits of co-creation, but while most companies consider themselves to be customer-focused, the majority are still yet to fully understand the importance of being truly collaborative.  In our co-creation brand survey, 69% of brand marketers said they considered their brand to be extremely customer-centric, and 70% said they think they know what their customers really think about their brand. Yet 77% of consumers said they felt that brands do not listen to their feedback, opinions and ideas. This presents a stark contrast between brand perception around customer connection and the reality of how consumers really feel about their interactions and experiences with brands.

By Michael Wylie-Harris, Marketing Director, Bulbshare