A couple of weeks ago, I published a post about French competitors of Quirky. I briefly presented 3 of them: Nov’In, MyKompany and La Fabrique à Innovations (The Innovation Factory, in French). Earlier this week I received their newsletter in which they announced that they were moving to bigger offices in Marseille (South-East), leaving Narbonne (South-West). I think this is great news and I’d like to congratulate them very sincerely; it’s a good step for this promising French start-up to develop and push consumer creativity in France. However, what bugged me in the newsletter is the presentation of products currently being developped.
There is a modular power strip, a headphone wrapper, a kitchen cutting board with integrated storage… all are nice ideas, currently being developped based on community ideas. But if you know Quirky, you know that they are also very similar to some of their best-selling items, namely the Power Pivot, the Wrapster, or the Mocubo. See below, on the left are the French ideas, and on the right are the American ideas (real products currently sold by Quirky).
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all the products developped by La Fabrique à Innovations are copycats of Quirky products. There are some creative, original and different ideas under development at La Fabrique à Innovations, like an automatic match dispenser, a new type of bike lock or a can cooler. And the power strip that La Fabrique à Innovations is developping is modular, meaning that you can add pivoting elements as you like – Quirky’s Pivot Power is not modular, it just allows pivotal movements between elements (see patents here, here, here or here).
Also, the ideas are being submitted and influenced by the communities of these platforms, and a good idea submitted on Quirky can also be submitted somewhere else by different people. It is possible that people in France face very similar problems in their lives than in the United States, and that people thought of similar solutions across the globe. So it makes sense to have some similar ideas. Last, Quirky is not always exemplary in terms of IP and communication around it.
It is possible that people in France face similar problems than in the United States, and that people came up with similar solutions
But I also think that in order to have a strategic advantage on this increasingly competitive marketplace (consumer attention is getting expensive and rare, and I think consumer creativity is even more difficult to grab), social product development platforms will have to differenciate themselves. Quirky is successful because they were the first to emerge in the field (kind of), they are pushing very specific products that people associate with the brand (Pivot Power was one, and they just did it again with a connected AC developped together with GE) and because they are so good at storytelling.
In order for Quirky’s French contenders to be successful, they will have to invent and push different types of products. La Fabrique à Innovations did it already with 2 success stories are being displayed on their site: an ajustable and customizable flip-flop, called My Tatane (produced in two locations in the Aude region and is theoretically on sale, the online shop is just not online yet) and chocolate candy that makes taking medication easier for children, called Médibon (being tested in hospitals in the south of France). La Fabrique à Innovations also explains that all products will be Made in France, another differenciator – and a very powerful one.
La Fabrique à Innovations explains that all products will be Made in France, a very powerful differenciator.
So, La Fabrique à Innovations, keep pushing the truly novel products that stem from your community. These are truly original products that will stand out from the crowd, and that’s how your brand will stand out from the crowd. Keep it up!