Who participates in co-creation, and what do participants expect ?


One of the most brilliant answers I’ve read is given by Johann Füller, CEO of Hyve, in his research paper Refining Virtual Co-Creation from a Consumer Perspective. He highlights that a lot has been written about the empowerment of the consumer, the capabilities provided by the web or the benefits of collabporative innovation, but “our understanding about who participates and what those participants expect from their engagement in virtual co-creation projects is limited“. In his paper, he explores how heterogeneous participants are and how co-creation focused companies should handle these different personnalities.


In his litterature review, he recalls that beside the 4Fs of co-creation, which are fun, fulfilment, fortune & fame (he doesn’t use these terms, I do), there can be other motivations to engage in co-creation: seeking information, satisfying a particular need or finding friends. But these motivations also depend on the co-creators personality. While experience-oriented people enjoy the interaction experience and have fun participating, goal-oriented people are more interested in end benefits and final utility of participation. Moreover, it seems that “creativity [is a] main prerequisite for their ability to make valuable and innovative contributions“.

To get to his conclusions, the Assistant Professor of Marketing at Innsbruck Unniversity surveyed more than 700 consumers that had participated at least one co-creation project, some of which concerned furniture design, baby carriage or automotive infotainment. The results of the study reveal four different types of consumers :


  1. Reward-oriented-consumers : interested in general innovation activities and personal fulfillment that they provide. Monetary rewards are also crucial for these consumers, who are skilled and like to modify products and offers. What they expect : a good virtual co-creation environment, rich interactions and… rewards (recognition, money etc.).
  2. Need-driven consumers : participate because the current offer on the market doesn’t satisfy them. They are not specially qualified or innovative but they seem to be educated and demanding individuals. What they expect : their problem to be solved !
  3. Curiosity-driven consumers : curious people, mainly early adopters, who don’t necessarily use the web a lot but will show high involvement when associated in a virtual co-creation task. What they expect : multimedia richness and testing novel products.
  4. Intrinsically interested consumers : simply interested in innovation activities, but very highly interested in them ! He seems to be an innovator, highly skilled and motivated, also an early adopter. What he expects : powerful co-creation tools, social interaction and recognition.

What’s interesting is that these four consmer types are almost equally distributed among the participants. Another interesting finding is that “creative consumers are more likely to engage in virtual co-creation than less creative consumers“, however consumers’ creativity does not impact their expectations towards co-creation. In other words : getting creatives into the boat will probably be simpler because they’re more interested in co-creation projects.


Hyve's last design contest for Henkel, on http://www.packdesign-contest.com

Füller highlights a problem : innovation managers don’t know what co-creators expect. It’s actually even worse, they think that co-creators value financial incentives and prizes more than other motivators… and therefore completely obliterate the fun factor ! So listen to the advice :

In general, it is important to generate a compelling, flowing, engaging, supportive and interactive experience

What’s interesting in this brilliant paper is that the range of communities is very wide : some were brand related communities, others gathered creatives around a passion, and others connected regular consumers to co-create a specific product (see the list of communities in the original paper). What would be interesting, however, would be to know if people who participate in co-creation contests like those hosted on brand-neutral co-creation communities, do have different motivations and expectations. Such multi-brand platforms, where consumer interaction in unique (not continuous) and relates to various different brands, have not yet been analyzed by research. That’s what I’m currently working on. Please feel free to react or comment to this article, especially if you know of some academic papers that I MUST read ! 😉


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