Co-creation May be the Key to Success for Startups

Written by Arcadier, 10 Oct 2016

Today’s generation wants to be involved in something bigger than themselves.  If there’s anything marketers know about them, it’s that they seek active participation beyond consumption and crave experiential value.


When you have a passionate community who wants to get more involved with your brand, how do you take that relationship to the next level? Remember when Nike started allowing colour and design customisations through the NIKEiD campaign? Or when Converse got their fans and social media followers to create their own video ads for the brand? Co-creation marketing is perhaps one of the easiest but most powerful tools to have in your arsenal.


Customise your own Nike shoe. Photo credit: Nike.


Co-creation is an effective way for brands and startups to engage their audience, to create a personalized and unique experience to drive loyalty, stronger relationships, and even generate word of mouth. It can be applied to many aspects of your business, from product design to marketing and communications, but essentially, co-creation is the initiative to bring different parties together in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.

What do millennials want?

Years of customer empowerment has conditioned millennials to engage with content, especially highly visual content such as videos and GIFs. There are three main reasons why millennials engage with content, be it through Likes, Shares, or Comments:

·         To define oneself

A millennial posts and shares something to give others a better sense of who he or she is. A 2014 study on personality judgment by computer models and humans show that Facebook Likes are better predictors of identification traits and life outcomes such as substance use, political attitudes, and physical health.

·         To connect and express empathy

Millennials use shares, likes, and comments to show disagreement or solidarity with a friend. Despite critiques that being on the Internet may affect real-world empathy negatively, Psychology Today reports that the propensity for virtual empathy is a good indicator of being able to express real-world empathy.

·         To get something in return

Millennials also turn to social media to receive something, like discount coupons and approval from peers (self-affirmation).


Photo credit: Allies4me.com.

Points to focus on to drive co-creation

Our civilization shifted from the agrarian economy to the goods-based industrial economy, then the service economy, and now the experience economy where the experience itself becomes a distinct economic offering. Needless to say, the customer is always a co-creator of value. Without them, there is no value in what we produce.

·         Actionable content

Many marketers get it wrong when they use social media platforms only to describe their brand or product. Create content that encourages and empowers users to do something. It could be DIY ideas, tutorials, or advice.


How to go viral like Buffer. Photo credit: WP Lighthouse.

·         User reviews

As reviews directly affect conversion rates and sales numbers, they should be the first type of user generated content (UGC) you should focus on. Where there are negative reviews, take the opportunity to open up a dialogue and address complaints directly.

·         Contests

Harness your customers’ motivations to participate by getting them to generate content for your brand. Launch a contest in which the winners will be awarded, like Starbucks’ White Cup Contest where customers were asked to draw on their cups and share it on social media.


Winner of the #WhiteCupContest. Photo credit: Starbucks.

·         Other UGC opportunities

Getting users to vote to involve them in decisions and giving them an outlet for their creativity are other great ways to keep your followers engaged. You can see more inspiring examples here.


Note that the number of submissions can make or break your co-creation efforts. It’s not easy to convince people to contribute, but the more people participate, the more likely their friends will too. Idea or contest submissions must also be dealt with delicately, as rejection is a sure way of alienating your customers, eventually leading to disengagement.


In this day and age where information is widely available online, consumers are no longer passive recipients of product and service offerings. They are able to innovate, research, and make choices based on brand identity, corporate reputation and social responsibility. This makes it more important than ever for startups to not only interact frequently with their customers, but also to build more intimate, quality relationships.

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