Game changer to crowdsourcer: the 5 ways brands can innovate in a collaborative economy

Having established that adoption of social innovation leads to new and fruitful revenues, I said in my last post that mostly start-ups are reaping the rewards.

So I investigated which brands were truly innovating for social.  I didn’t consider those that had instigated an internal cultural change (or social enterprise).  Because, as the S-curve shows, social business isn’t the innovation I am after.

Instead I want to look at the wider social economic impact – the change in the social, connected and collaborative customer; and how that might offer opportunities for brands to innovate products and services.

I found that there are a few brands snatching first mover advantage in social innovation. And not all of them are brands you might normally consider as innovative!

Whilst I was collating the examples (it took some research and a big thank you to my social networking friends who helped me out!)  it became clear that there were different ways in which to innovate for the collaborative economy. Five ways in fact:

1. Create it! The most inventive of all the methods is the creation of a completely new product. Back in the old days of banking it was first direct with its telephone banking innovation that grabbed consumer attention.

Today, in a more social world, it is Barclaycard with its Ring MasterCard. The credit card gives customers unprecedented levels of control with access online to the company’s profit and loss, alongside voting on fees, APRs and T&Cs. Connected to a community forum, customers share marketing thoughts, ideas and concerns with a Barclaycard “community manager” and other customers. A new product for a new financial customer.

2. Partner for it! Dismissed as a gimmick by some, another credit card has found a different way to capture the connected consumer. American Express joined forces with Twitter to offer a purchase-by-tweet service. Using a specific hashtag customers, once connected to the service, can trigger payments for products from Amazon, Sony and Microsoft with more to come. Sometimes innovation comes from working with others.

3. Buy it! And why partner when you can buy outright? It is what Yahoo! has done in its purchase of Flickr and Tumblr. But maybe that is not a great example of innovation.

Better is the way BSkyB tapped into the connected and social TV audience. It bought a stake in Zeebox (an exclusive UK deal no less). The app, integrated into the Sky offering, brings social networking together with live programme information. Customers can see who else is watching TV and interact with tweets and status updates. Further interactive opportunities and advertising bring new revenues to the broadcast giant.

4. Crowdsource it! A lovely explanation from Kimberly-Clark shows how they sourced innovation for new products from Mumpreneurs.

The final one is hard to find. It is the game changer.

Steve Jobs said, when talking about product innovation, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

The game changer happens when a  brand looks at an audience and understands what it needs, not necessarily what it asks for. For me it is Google that gets this at the moment. Think Google Glasses. An innovation that takes a leap to the next level. An organisation that understands how consumers are connecting via mobile devices, and considers how it might make itself useful. Google Glasses will definitely be a game changer.  And I will definitely be on standby to get the first pair I can lay my hands on (are you listening Google?!).

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