Involving consumers in value creation process is not just a trend. Collaborative innovation, co-creation, co-design are becoming natural to the most innovative companies. Therefore, even the collaboration with consumers is growing, notalways the reasons remain clear. Why do companies need to work with consumers and not just propose them brands and products? What is behind the simple brands’ wish to try co-creation?
Many academics in marketing are trying to understand and explain what are the main reasons and the main benefits for companies to engage with consumers and interact with them. One of the approaches talking about the collaboration between companies and their clients is known as “Knowledge Marketing”. Professor Oleg Curbatov (University Paris 13)—the author of the concept—shared with us what does the exchange between clients and companies really mean.
Competence sharing is at the core of brand-consumer collaboration
Knowledge Marketing is known as the system of co-creation of the organizational knowledge via the relationship between companies and their clients. While for traditional marketing a consumer is narrowed to a target category, for which a company proposes products and services, the Knowledge Marketing treats a consumer as someone who has certain knowledge about products or product category, and certain competencies and skills that can be explored by a company in product development process, for example. Using this mind-set, co-creation with a consumer is seen as the process of interaction between two different knowledge systems in action: a company’s competencies and client’s competencies. The idea is that through the co-creation, a company can learn « from » consumers and not just « about » consumers: « Knowledge Marketing boost a generic “linking competency” a customer competencies with firm’s competencies« , according to Curbatov. If I ask consumers to share how they use the product, not only I can learn about where the product is used, where it can be sold and how it is perceived by my target audience but rather I can learn how the product could be improved, what kind of new features it can have… This approach is an example of how marketing and innovation can work together.
How can companies activate consumers’ individual resources?
Thus, according to Knowledge Marketing, a company’s task is to create conditions to mobilise individual consumer’s resources that could help to implement existing products or to create new ones. For example, if a company is searching for an original cosmetic product category in foreign market, it is better to connect to local consumers having local cultural knowledge and being familiarized with local consumers needs (see eYeka’s white paper about the Chinese cosmetics market).
Let’s take an example of Galimard perfumery. The company has created in 1996 the « Studio des Fragrances » aiming to propose its clients to co-create perfume. People visiting this studio could participate in 2 hours co-creation session during which they could create the personal perfume with the help of a professional perfumer. Galimard found the way to empower the clients as well as to use their personal (physical, creative, cultural, cognitive…) resources, by proposing them to have a unique experience of a perfume co-creation. In this case, we can observe the marriage between organisational (Galimard) and client competencies resulting into a creation of the new value and new knowledge for both.
Knowledge Marketing with consumer creativity
How does the Knowledge Marketing approach explain co-creation via the spectrum of consumer creativity? In this case, companies engage the 1% most creative of all consumers. Through the creative tasks, they are able not only to mobilize their creativity , but also to contribute to the new Knowledge creation. For example, when they are tasked to invent a new chewing gum concept, they won’t answer « I would like to see in the market a cherry and banana flavour chewing gum ». Rather than proposing ideas that are not far from existing products, the creative individuals are able to imagine totally new products and services. Furthermore, according to Knowledge Marketing, in addition to his creative skills, the consumer will use his instrumental skills that will be correlated with its resources – instruments of creation / dissemination of creations (software, web, sharing platforms, etc.).
In a nutshell, co-creation can be perceived by companies as a way to create new knowledge by interacting with consumers. Depending on what type of knowledge is needed, companies, before starting co-creation operation, should detect the right consumer groups. We believe that engaging with consumer creativity is the best way to create knowledge leading to a breakthrough innovation.
See professor’s Oleg Curbatov presentation: