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Johnnie Moore is a marketing consultant and facilitator based in London. As well as 20 years of marketing experience he's trained in psychotherapy, NLP and Improv. Find out more at his blog.

Andrew Lark's more than 18 years experience of all facets of marketing, branding, sales and communications spans technology, Internet, telecommunications and consumer sectors. There he has led award-winning programs and teams for brands such as Dell, Sony, SBC, IDSoftware, Nortel, Microsoft and Sun. He is a thought leader and innovator on the convergence of brands, communications and social networking technologies. Find out more at his blog.

Jennifer Rice is a strategist and evangelist for relationship-centric brands. She brings 15 years experience in brand strategy, customer insight and marketing communications, and has worked with companies such as Microsoft, Verizon, Alcatel and Corning. Her current passion is exploring how brands are being impacted by blogs and other social technologies. Her company blog is What's Your Brand Mantra?

John Winsor is the author of Beyond the Brand: Why Listening to the Right Customers is Essential to Winning in Business and the Founder/CEO of Radar Communications, a consumer-centric consultancy. You can find out more about him at Beyond the Brand.

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« Is CSR bunk? | Main | Co-creation, Part 4 »

February 12, 2005

Co-creation, Part 3

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Posted by Jennifer Rice

Thanks to everyone's contributions on defining the concept of co-creation (here and here), I think we're arriving at a pretty good place. Here's where my head's at now:

"An open, ongoing collaboration between employees and customers to define and create products, services, experiences, ideas and information."

Open brings in the idea of transparency, so that non-participants can easily see the collaborative process. This, in my mind, eliminates traditional customer research from the definition.

Ongoing implies that it's not a one-time shot at obtaining customer input and then taking the rest of it in-house. Anyone can participate at any time.

Collaboration brings in the spirit of teamwork. Employees and customers are peers in the process. In many cases, the company simply serves as a facilitator of the process.

Products are probably the most clear-cut application for co-creation: open-source software, Lego Factory, Google's API

Information is probably the next obvious application:,, forum

Experiences: This gets a bit more fuzzy. A good example is probably Apple iTunes/iPod customized playlists... the company provided the tools to allow customers to create their own music experience. We could get really fuzzy here and say that because a brand is an idea in the minds of customers, then all brands are co-created. But I won't say it, because I think it's confusing the issue. Any more tangible examples of co-created experiences?

Services: This is another tough one. Typically a service company exists to do something that a customer doesn't want to do. Again, would love some ideas on how service companies could work with customers to co-create.

Ideas: What we're doing now. I love co-creating the idea of co-creation!

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Co-creation


1. Bruce DeBoer on February 12, 2005 03:49 PM writes...

I don't have much time now, but one thing struck me: who owns the collaboration?

Generally, Brands (perhaps with some notable exceptions like linux - although Red Hat complicates that too) aren't co-created by your definition (in my opinion - others will disagree) because ultimately they are owned by a company or individual. I know, I know - Marketers may insist that the consumer owns the brand, but I say that’s not true because the company is the one who can alter the delivered product and the relationship with the company at its peril or profit.

Let’s use this conversation string as an example. You own the definition because you are the author in this community: we are all contributing to your brand. I’ve learned that the one at the front of the room with the pen has the power – You post, we comment. While it appears transparent, we don’t know the process you went through to get to your conclusion. You can walk away with the product and leave us with ½ finished thoughts. We are free to draw our own conclusion but you still own the brand called Jennifer Rice [or Brand Mantra].

This seems like minutia [to me too and I’m writing it] but I think it helps me to understand the difficulty I have with “Open Source Marketing” and the suggestion that brands are co-created. The community has to be equal stake holders if it’s truly open source or co-created.

What do you think?

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2. jennifer rice on February 12, 2005 05:50 PM writes...

Bruce, interesting point. I'm wondering if it really has to be 50/50 in order to be co-created? I don't think so. Perhaps you only contributed 10%, but you're extremely pleased that your 10% got included in the solution. You're probably quite likely to believe that you were involved in co-creation.

Or let's take an internal team like software development: invariably you'll find a team lead who takes overall responsibility for the deliverables. Does that person's ownership reduce the rest of the team's feeling that they were co-creators of that particular piece of software? Probably not, although it depends on how he or she managed the project.

There will always be some degree of fuzziness because participation is in the eye of the beholder. If I as the owner believe that we've arrived at the solution, but you as a participant do not, then we'll have a difference of opinion on whether the outcome was truly co-created. So I think that another aspect of "collaboration" is true conversation and dialogue. If the owner stops listening, the solution ceases to be co-created.

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3. Bill Matthews on February 12, 2005 06:09 PM writes...

Hello, I am an Intellectual Property attorney, and my practice includes trademark and franchising counseling and registration. As such, I am not a "brand manager," but such topics interesting me greatly because, of course, they are of great interest to my clients, and the legal framework constantly interacts with the business reality.

Perhaps this is obvious to everyone reading this, but its seems that this discussion needs some more precise definitions. What is the definition of "brand" and "brading," and how do these differ from the product (whether it be a physical object, a corporation, etc.)?

It seems to me that the "brand" is the perception among consumers or potential consumers concerning all aspects of the product, and the activities and efforts to create, alter, develop, and/or evolve the brand is "branding".

Now, of course, the nature of the product itself impacts the nature of the brand. However, consumer perception of a product may dramatically diverge from the product itself. Take, for example, the Pet Rock. The product was a small, simple rock. However, the brand associated with the product extended way beyond the nature of the product itself--the consumer perceived the product as much more than a simple rock.

With that said, its seems to me that co-creation or co-evolution of a product necessarily impacts consumer perception or the brand. How does the fact that Linix is co-created by a group of open source computer programmers impact the way consumers think about the product? Consumer perception may be further changed by the willingness of the “owner” of the product (the persons who have the ability to implement creation or changes) to actually implement that change? For example, are consumers’ views about Apple’s iTunes positively or negatively impacted because Apple ignores consumers’ requests to limit DRM (digital rights management) on downloadable songs? Or, what impact is there in consumer perception merely because the company that owns the Lego product invites consumers to submit new ideas with no perception that any of those ideas will ever be implemented? Perhaps this is the comment that Bruce DeBoer is making.

I’m interested in hearing any thoughts.

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4. Johnnie Moore on February 14, 2005 09:33 AM writes...

Bruce and Bill: Interesting stuff, and you both touch on very interesting aspects of this.

I think that many branders who say the customers "own" the brand speak. perhaps unintentionally, with forked tongue. They say this on the one hand, and then hire firms like Interbrand to come in a put a hard cash value on their brand so that it can be bought and sold. We find ourselves in the weird and puzzling territory of trying to put a value on the intangibles which seem to represent the great majority of the market valuation of businesses. I think those market valuations are the product of guesses and gambles yet a kind of specious solidity because they're expressed in numbers, something our society sometimes reverences too much.

Taking Bruce's point about "brand Jennifer". I suppose you could say that we're all impacting on our personal image/reputation in our participation here. Corante as host; Jen as Editor, me as Contributer and you as Commenters. But none of us own the meaning that is made out of what we write. (One of the great lessons of blogging... people make all sorts of meanings out of a single piece of stimulus) But meanings are made and if we're lucky, a byproduct may be that one day someone gives us money or more money (well, I live in hope), or some much less measureable reward for our efforts. I don't think there is a "product" here or at least if there is, it's the least signifcant part of the complex meanings and values we're all making out of whatever this is that we're doing.

My hunch and excitement about co-creation, open source marketing, call it what you will is that at its best it is actually deeply subversive of the particular variation of capitalism we've been practising for the last hundred years or so. So much so that it starts to raise big questions about how we currently measure and value the fruits of our labours. The current strife over intellectual property rights is one manifestation of this. I'm choosing my words and emphasis with moderate care here in the possibly vain hope of avoiding getting labelled an anti-capitalist, which I ain't.

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5. jennifer rice on February 14, 2005 01:47 PM writes...

Bill, I like your analogy of the pet rock. It brings up an interesting aspect of co-creation which is "assigned meaning." It appears that successful brands allow customers to assign their own meaning to a product or service, which gives them a feeling of ownership and self-expression. So for example, it's not really about open-source software, it's an open-source movement where participants have assigned a bigger meaning (power to the people) to a product. Most (if not all) of the examples we've listed are all about facilitating self-expression. So even in the case of Lego, whether the design is actually implemented or not, it doesn't matter: Lego has facilitated self-expression. iTunes facilitates self-expression. facilitates self-expression. Today's recipe for success appears to be: To serve as a facilitator for people to do, say or experience what they want. Because the underlying dissatisfaction in society today is having too much shoved down our throats. Witness the revolution of the masses. We want control.

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6. Bruce DeBoer on February 14, 2005 04:54 PM writes...

Thanks Bill,

Well said - you expressed those thoughts much better than I did.

As a branding professional my job is to help companies position their product or service to take advantage of what consumers perceptions exist, or can exist if persuated. If I play the game right across all business activities, my brand will have the positive "essence" that I desired and improve revenue. That now includes any co-creation or open source activities.

If customers contribute to a brand's success through co-creation we stand a better chance of converting them into advocates.

- bruce

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