Reinventing classical brands and famous products through crowdsourcing


Iconic brands and designs… are being reinvented by creative crowds

Do you recognize the above brands and products? Probably you’ve recognized the Lacoste Crocodile and the Swiss Knives, maybe even the colors of n°4711 Eau de Cologne… iconic brands and/or products that with worldwide recognition. The book Mythologies described this type of symbols of the consumption era back in 1957, there has even been an updated version about current myths like the GPS, the iPod or Nespresso. This post is not about books, though, but about a couple of creative crowdsourcing initiatives that asked creatives to reinvent old classics, namely the Renault 4 and Fiat 500 (on Designboom), 4711 Eau de Cologne (on Ideanet), Lacoste and Tag Heuer (on eYeka), the Swiss Army Knife (on Jovoto) and Nokia’s Ringtone (on Audiodraft).  Take a tour.

Fiat 500 Wants You

The Italian website Designboom is probably one of the most famous design-related websites around. Back in 2006, they partnered with Fiat to ask the creatives on the platform to think about products that convey the 500 lifestyle. Unfortunately the brief is not online anymore, so I couldn’t find any detailed information about what got asked… but I saw that the contest jury was very prestigious, including Giorgio Armani and Luca di Montezemolo. An impressive number of people participated (5,400+ from 97 countries) and winners came from very different locations too. The winning design came from Finland (even though I don’t get why it has been selected in the “Accessories” category), a 500-style vacuum cleaner was proposed by a designer from Israel, and a concept for urban advertising around the 500 came from Argentina. Another surprising concept is that of using a Fiat 500 as a movie projector… these Brits have a great sense of humor! 😉

renault 4 ever

On the same site, in June 2011, Renault organized a very similar competition. The French brand asked designers to redesign the mystical Renault 4 around reviving the car’s spirit and making it look great! The competition generated considerable buzz around the brand and a possible relaunch of the car, similarly to what Citroën did by reviving its DS brand. Again, participation was impressive with 3,200+ entries from 90+ countries, and some interesting designs. The winning R4 was proposed by a British designer who really respected the brief and proposed a concept around the circular economy. I must say that I recognized the British influence… some views make this R4 look like a London Cab! Another interesting R4 concept came from France, and won the second prize because it really reuses some of the original car’s codes. The third prize went to an American designer who designed the so-called Renault Eleve, a vehicle with exterior panels made of natural composites and interior parts made of recycled textiles, and named after the French for “student”: “élève” (see more here).


Another global use of crowdsourcing to revive and refresh a mystical brand can be provided by Lacoste’s co-creation campaign on eYeka. As the brief states, the objective was to “Unleash the Lacoste Crocodile” with a video or video-animation around the iconic Croc logo. The winning entries are kept confidential, but participation figures and feedback can be found on eYeka’s blog post about the contest. The winning creator came from Germany and shared the prize pool with other winners from Spain, Brazil, Russia, France and Greece. Even the company’s CEO Michel Lacoste was impressed by the diversity and the quality of entries, which is very rewarding for anyone who worked on that project!


A similar contest was held by Tag Heuer on the same platform. This time, the objective was to celebrate a particular watch design: the LINK watch, which is being built by the Swiss brand since 1915. To launch a re-edition of this watch, the watchmaker asked the creatives from the eYeka-platform to celebrate the iconic watch design as “the epitome of modern elegance and style among successful, sophisticated urban consumers“. Winning submissions came from Hungary, the USA, the Philippines and Singapore, and even Branding Magazine talked about this campaign (unfortunately videos are not accessible anymore).


Among all the crowdsoucing initiatives and contest websites, I didn’t know that one existed specifically for music and sound. Well, Nokia leveraged the website Audiodraft, which organizes competitions for sound design and music, to ask the crowd to reinterpret the Nokia ringtone. You know this one. Almost 6,000 tunes have been submitted (some of which have been removed from the platform since) and the winning tune “will be available on some 100 million devices and will be heard over 1 billion times a day“, said in its post about the competition. The winner was an Italian DJ called Valerio Alessandro Sizzi, and he created a dubstep version of the tune. You can download it here… or just wait to hear it in the streets, because the tune will be installed on ALL new Nokias!

4711 design competition

Now that’s a great one! The brand n°4711 is a famous perfue brand, not only in Cologne, Germany, where the fragrance comes from. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the Wikipedia page… bottom line is that we have a really traditional and strong brand here, with an interesting story (the house number 4711 in Cologne’s city center). Together with the Munich-based Hyve AG, the brand owner Mäurer & Wirtz imagined a design contest to imagine merchanidising possibilities around it. “The main goal of the contest is generating new ideas and designs (…) and to enrich design in diversity and emotionality in the products and to gain attractiveness in public“, the Terms and Conditions say on the contest website. Check out the winning entries here, and it’s also interesting to see some picture of the contest jury (see at the bottom).


Do you know The Laughing Cow (La Vache Qui Rit)? Property of BEL Group, the melted cheese brand hosted a competition for its 90th birthday in 2011, and hosted it on Designboom. “To celebrate the occasion, LA VACHE QUI RIT asks participants to design and submit a powerful image promoting the brand, to be edited as silkscreen posters, t-shirts, bags,” the brief said. “Designers are free to reinvent the brand’s visual identity with references to contemporary culture.” The company received over 400 entries and rewarded designers Ségolène Huet (France), Nikolo Kerimov (Finland) and Aurore Brunet (France), who received cash prizes and saw their creations used in official LVQR merchandising. See more about this initiative in this movie, this official site and this blog post.


Last but not least: a design competition that aims to reinvent the swiss army knife, how awesome is that? The German contest-website Jovoto has teamed up with Victorinox, the brand which designs and manufactures the iconic pocket-knife (and lots of other products) to hold a contest on its private community of designers. On Victorinox’s website, I already see special designs of the Swiss Army Knife, but obviously they’re running out of designs and/or ideas and that’s why they adress the crowd of Jovoto (“The famous red Swiss Army Knife needs new fashionable designs“, the briefing says). The contest is still running, you can see incoming ideas here, but I think they are cool designs: this one is nuts, these ones are fresh, and I also like this one 😉 (Update: On December 20th 2012, jovoto announced a second round of the same contest: Your Swiss Army Knife 2013)


In early 2012, Porsche teamed up with Fast.CoDesign to host a design competition around the 911. Almost identically to the Fiat 500 competition mentioned above, the brief was to “design an object smaller than a living room and bigger than a purse, which references three design elements taken from Porsche 911” and that it didn’t have to be a car! They received 428 entries, with very beautiful objects like a bike, chairs, lamps, speakers and even a surf board. Nothing really out of the box (at least not in the shortlists) but gorgeous objects inspired by the curves of the 911. Finally, the winning entry was a sleek hair dryer designed by Junggi Sung, an award-winning designer from the San Franciso area, who has worked for LG and IDEO. This competition definitely was a success for both Fast.CoDesign and Porsche, but I wonder if the designs will actually be used by the German brand? There is no mention about this in the brief…

Bottom line is that today, you can crowdsource anything… but when it comes to iconic brands and products, crowds seem to love it. It’s interesting to see this passion, as weel as the global participation in such contests, which proves that crowdsourcing really allows creativity to cross borders! What do you think?

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