from Reinier Evers & Trendwatching.com
So What is "Customer-Made" ?
has finally become a conversation. Not, in most cases, as was
intended, BETWEEN corporations and consumers (that would make
too much sense), but rather a global conversation involving millions
of consumers ABOUT corporations. On sites like Planetfeedback.com, thecomplaintstation.com, Epinions,
hundreds of thousands of blogs, community sites, forums, viral
emails, bulletin boards, and what have you, consumers relentlessly
exchange views, complaints, opinions and comments about products
and services, about brands, about companies, about YOUR company.
now? Because they finally can. For decades, consumers have been
saving up their insights and rants about the stuff they consume,
simply because there were no adequate means to interact with companies,
or with other consumers for that matter. No longer. These fickle,
wired, empowered, informed, opinionated and experienced holders
of a MC (Master in Consumerism) are getting used to 'having it
their way', in ANY way imaginable, which includes wanting to have
a direct influence on what companies develop and produce for them.
some companies ARE now engaging creative customers in new ways.
Recently, brands like Coors Light and Mercedes Benz invited customers to co-create
advertising campaigns, with Mercedes encouraging proud owners
of a Benz to submit snapshots of themselves next to their automotive
objects of desire. And Mazda and
Conde Nast have just partnered to create a similar contest
whereby contestants can submit photos representative of their
interpretation of Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" slogan. (Thanks, Adrants.com!)
These companies are clearly aware that tapping into the collective
intellectual capital of their customers yields great creative
and 'real' content. However, let's not make the mistake to think
that in the end these conversations will all be about communications
and branding: how about extending this cooperation with consumers
to virtually everything a corporation does, by making the customer
an integral part of ALL creative and creational processes?
has dubbed the latter "CUSTOMER-MADE":
the phenomenon of corporations creating goods, services and experiences
in close cooperation with consumers, tapping into their intellectual
capital, and in exchange giving them a direct say in what actually
gets produced, manufactured, developed, designed, serviced, or
processed. The CUSTOMER-MADE trend has
been slowly building over the last five years, but with the current
onslaught of consumer activism and the rapid rise of GENERATION
C, it finally seems ready for its big moment in the limelight,
where TRENDWATCHING.COM expects it to stay for many years to come.
It doesn't hurt that Management Guru C.K. Prahalad recently published
'The Future of Competition' an insightful and highly recommended
book on co-creation, which prompted us to move CUSTOMER-MADE to the top
of our emerging trends list!
you, CUSTOMER-MADE is NOT plain
feedback, it's not Do-It-Yourself, it's not customization, it's
not even personalization, as all of these happen after companies
have decided what the basics are, which products and services
and experiences they're willing to hand over to consumers, who
can then (at best) modify certain elements, change a color, replace
a cover. That's still pretty much a one-way conversation, business
DOES qualify as CUSTOMER-MADE? Check out
the hands-on examples below; a random yet varied overview of CUSTOMER-MADE
initiatives, both 'corporate' initiatives and grassroots movements,
which should get you going.
year, 120,000 people around the world signed up to join Boeing's
World Design Team, an internet-based global
forum that encourages participation and feedback while the company
is developing its new airplane. Activities include message boards,
conversations with the Boeing design team, and extensive discussions
on what members like and don't like about air travel today, as
well as features they'd like to see in their dream airplane. In
Boeing's own words: "Flyers and aviation enthusiasts from around
the world are sharing the excitement of creating the airplane
of the future."
Shoe designer John Fluevog has a section on his site entitled
Open Source Footwear, wherein serious Fluevog
owners can submit designs for future shoes. The winning design
actually gets put into production. CUSTOMER-MADE at its best!
A lot of talking and commenting goes on at http://www.niketalk.com/, the non-affiliated
online sneaker community which so far has received more than 200
million visits and 3.5 million posts. Every Sunday at 9 PM EST,
their sister site, chat room NikeChat,
welcomes Nike fans from around the world, to exchange views, tips
A similar set up for new Mini Cooper owners can be found at http://www.mini2.com/, for Lego fanatics at
news.lugnet.com/dear-lego (BTW, Lego itself
allows programmers from outside the company to access to the code
that controls its Mindstorm toy robot, leading to an increased
range of activities the robot can perform, in ways the company
never imagined), and for TiVo users at http://www.tivocommunity.com/. About the latter:
for the past four years, the 65,000 members of the self-organized
TiVo Community forum have traded ideas on 'how to convince friends
and family to buy a TiVo', 'how to deliver impromptu sales training
sessions to Best Buy employees whose sales pitches need work',
or 'how to be a better TiVotee'. CUSTOMER-MADE
sales teams anyone?
At http://www.ipodlounge.com/, avid iPod users
(and aren't they all?) congregate not only to talk about their
favorite device, but also to show the world (and thus Apple) what
they would like the next iPod to do and to look like, or adaptations
they've already created in their basement or garage. A fascinating
combination of GENERATION C and future CUSTOMER-MADE trends if
we ever saw one. The site gets more than 5 million hits a day,
and if we were Apple designers, or Steve Jobs for that matter,
we'd visit iPod Lounge weekly to get a good dose of CUSTOMER-MADE inspiration,
and probably recruit loads future employees while we were at it.
TRENDWATCHING.COM is all in favor of conversations taking place
in the vicinity of beverages. Which is why we think Philips Streamium Café is aptly named. It's
where owners of Philips' new WiFi TV sets and hifi systems tell
Philips where they think Streamium is going, and what Streamium
should be able to do. Current discussions involve everything from
the time format on the appliances' display to 'Support for Real
Player RadioPass + Real Rhapsody.' How long before the discussion
turns to the question of which OTHER Philips appliances should
become WiFi enabled?
Online Lovemark Google has always been open to suggestions and
comments from its millions of users: Google's social networking
site Orkut includes two communities with over 1,000 subscribers:
"What Should Google Do?" and "What Should Orkut Do?" And on Google's
blog, visitors are encouraged to send their suggestions to
email@example.com. And, gasp, they actually reply. A CUSTOMER-MADE treasure
trove: who does NOT have some strong (and cool) views on what
Google should do next?
founder Reinier Evers (34) is an accomplished trend watcher, entrepreneur,
and business strategist. While at interactive agency AGENCY.COM
in NY and London, he worked with global clients like British Airways,
Texaco, Compaq, managing a team of strategists and analysts. Many
of these projects involved trend spotting, business research,
vision development and competitive analysis, making TRENDWATCHING.COM
a natural progression of his activities.