There are many forms of co-creation out there, but we are strong advocates of doing it with genuine consumers of your brand or category, and exercising caution when using “leading edge consumers”.
The typical profile of a leading edge consumer is rarely representative of your current or future consumer base. They tend to be highly creative, above average intelligence, outgoing people who are brand savvy, style-conscious opinion leaders. They are not normal – they represent less than 2% of the population. They are unlikely to ever buy the product or service you are co-creating with them.
When you think about the reality, it seems crazy for example to ask a 26year old male MBA student to try and guess what a stay at home Mum would want.
And, contrary to popular belief, real consumers have the ability to be incredibly creative and forward thinking – it’s all down to the environment and the tools you provide to provoke and inspire them.
Having said that, we believe that there are times when real consumers pose your brand with a challenge that you are struggling to solve with your existing teams of creatives and R&D experts. In this case it may be a useful exercise to share it with experts in the public domain – they could be chefs, hackers, designers, inventors, programmers etc. – but in this case, probably just a bonus if they are also consumers of your brand. And they must never be seen as representative of your consumer base.
So use real consumers to gain insight and co-create, and if it works for your brand, expert consumers to solve very specific technical or creative challenges.