Leading companies have become much more adept lately at co-creating new products in close partnership with their customers. They do so in a number of ways, including intensive ethnographic research, crowdsourcing projects, social media contests, customer advisory councils, etc. One example of an interesting approach is the "Do Us a Flavor" campaign conducted by the Lays brand of potato chips (owned by Pepsico). This Knowledge@Wharton article describes the effort. This excerpt explains how the program worked:
Anyone who had a chip idea in mind could visit Lays’ Facebook page, enter some information about their flavor and be rewarded with a shareable image of “their” bag of chips. The company teamed up with Facebook to turn the “like” button into a vote of “I’d Eat That.” Lays’ Facebook cover photo became a rotating billboard, which featured a new submission every few minutes. A panel of judges and campaign spokespeople — celebrity chef Michael Symon and actress Eva Longoria — helped narrow the contest to three finalist flavors: sriracha, cheesy garlic bread and chicken and waffles, and then opened the vote for a winner to the public.
14 million people voted in this campaign, and the bags of chips for the three finalists flew off the shelves in a matter of hours. Of course, the campaign's true value extends well beyond the sales of these new flavors of potato chips. In my view, the value lies in the learning that is taking place as the campaign unfolds. The brand managers identify flavors that excite customers, as well as those that clearly do not. They also learn about the type of people most likely to engage closely with the company via social media. Perhaps these customers share other important needs and wants along the way. Moreover, the company engages the customer in a way that may lead to more sales for the brand overall. They drive traffic to important retail partners, and they give those retailers something new and exciting to merchandise. Finally, they help the company reach millennials, an important group for whom the brand may otherwise become less relevant amidst many new choices.