The Birth of Large-Scale Crowd-Sourcing in New Product Development?
Recently, we’ve noticed an interesting trend developing. Whilst everyone is still looking at 2017 Marketing predictions, breaking their new year’s resolutions, and nervously wondering what awaits the world after January 20th, a few CEOs of pretty huge companies have been quietly gathering information from their audiences and implementing them into their product development. What’s been astonishing is that the use of a two-way medium (in this case Twitter) to directly take on points of view and implement them into a company’s offering or business plan has never really been seen at this scale, nor with the turnaround speeds seen recently.
It all started on the 11th of December when someone tweeted Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (amongst other things):
Now admittedly, the issue was something that Musk was already aware of, but instead of ignoring, he responded to the tweeter, and then within 6 days had created a new policy and implemented it. 6 days.
And then all the big tech CEOs jumped on the bandwagon.
Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO decided, on Boxing Day evening that he’d do some impromptu market research:
He started interacting with the (mostly serious) responses, and it became clear that he wasn’t just making idle conversation. He was gathering direct market research, instantly. Why hasn’t anyone really done this before?
4 days later, he had had enough suggestions. Over 2,000, which one presumes he read personally, and he highlighted the ideas which seemed to be popular/exciting/feasible:
But he wasn’t serious right? He wasn’t going to take these ideas on board? He was just researching to see whether the ideas they’d already thought of were popular with the public, wasn’t he? Or he was just doing it as a PR exercise to strengthen the brand by seeming approachable, collaborative, and available? Apparently not. He was serious:
So once @Jack (Dorsey), CEO of Twitter also jumped on the bandwagon, we realised that this wasn’t a coincidence, or isolated. This was, with apologies for the reference, ‘A Movement’.
So why is this a great idea for brands, and why has it taken so long?
I wonder whether, because they’ve created technology companies which have achieved so much, so quickly, they forget that most big companies take months or years to implement change. Maybe they’ve misjudged their audiences and thought that direct access to them wouldn’t be desirable or interesting? Or whether this sort of casual, informal ‘market research’ isn’t robust and scientific enough to appease their shareholders/investors?
So what can we expect in 2017? What other brands could utilise this previously untapped well of ideas and knowledge? We’re not talking about crisps companies asking for new flavours – we’re thinking of brands which could fundamentally change their operation, business model or product/service provision based on customer feedback.
Maybe if Tim Cook had asked what people wanted he’d have realised that nobody had asked for tiny, immediately loseable, £159 ‘ear buds’. Samsung would have discovered that ‘catch fire mode’ wasn’t a feature that people need in a phone. Jeff Bezos probably wouldn’t have had hundreds of people asking for an Alexa which ordered products that it overheard people talking about on the TV.
But seriously, we expect far more companies to talk a more direct approach to their users through social media in order to continue to build their companies. What examples of innovation would you like to see in your favourite brands?