Crowdsourcing requires long-term commitment - brands cannot simply walk away

Simon Ward, chief executive at branding and innovation consultancy Holmes & Marchant
Simon Ward, chief executive at branding and innovation consultancy Holmes & Marchant

Crowdsourcing is a great way for brands to boost loyalty and engagement. But failing to take it seriously will result in a backlash, warns Simon Ward is chief executive at branding and innovation consultancy Holmes & Marchant.

Crowdsourcing product ideas is about much more than just innovation, it can help to increase customer engagement and boost brand loyalty in the process but such initiatives must always be followed up.

News that Lego is encouraging UK fans to suggest new ideas for products that, if adopted, could see them launched globally is the latest example of this crowdsourcing in action.

As well as showcasing the initiative on its own social media platforms, Lego will be encouraging fans to pro-actively promote it through their personal networks. Furthermore, the brand has introduced a number of online global user groups to allow fans to provide feedback or submit new ideas.

Whatever happens, Lego will need to make good on its promise and be prepared to show that they will genuinely consider ideas that are submitted as part of this process. It would be both ironic and counterproductive if a scheme designed to increase engagement fell at the first hurdle because it left valued customers or their ideas abandoned.

Ongoing commitment

While agile innovation initiatives of this nature are set up with the intention of reacting quickly to market opportunities, once created they should not be switched on and off at the whim of the brand owner. Although it is great to go to market for input, opening up a branded channel of customer engagement demands some ongoing commitment.

If customers are engaged enough to suggest new product ideas, then they are more likely to have higher needs for, and expectations of, further engagement.

By definition, if customers are engaged enough to suggest new product ideas, then they are more likely to have higher needs for, and expectations of, further engagement. Involving consumers in a branded innovation process is an approach already being usedby a number of leading brands. For example, Starbucks’ ‘My Starbucks Idea’ scheme canvasses coffee drinkers to find out what new things they would like to see in store.

Similarly, Ikea’s ‘Idea Hackers’ gets customers to share images of how they have adapted key pieces of furniture to suit their living spaces. This feedback can then be used to inform innovation projects and enhance the brand in the process.

This approach is also well recognised within Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. Any successful product on this platform has become so as a result of maintaining ongoing communications with ‘funders’, giving them project updates and tiered rewards for their involvement throughout, from pre-sell to hitting funding targets, to product development and finally, launch.

To be successful, Lego must learn from such examples and find a way to maintain a structured dialogue with customers as the ideas are evaluated and developed for market. If they succeed in doing so, Lego will have secured a loyal and engaged fan base that is ready and willing to travel with them, whatever direction they take in the future.

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