Tennis Shoes to Toothpaste – Is Community Design the Ultimate Efficiency?

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In the wake of my recent quest for a logo, I was really interested listening to this story about crowd sourcing on NPR a few weeks ago. They featured shoe company RYZwear.com, a small company relying on crowd sourcing, or community design, to design tennis shoes. This cuts marketing or design costs and in theory results in a product that’ll be in demand by ‘the people’. So is this just the latest gimmick or will this be the most efficient way to design products in the future?

Democracy of Design & Quicker Reaction Time

Community design taps the talent of potential customers who compete for top honors via some type of voting scheme. In the case of RYZwear.com, the winning designer gets $1,000 plus 1 percent royalties. Not only do companies save on R&D, but the voting stands in for market research.

“This is really the biggest paradigm shift in innovation since the Industrial Revolution,” said MIT professor Eric von Hippel. “For a couple hundred years or so, manufacturers have been really imperfect at understanding people’s needs. Now people get to decide what they want for themselves.”

Money’s not the only thing community design saves companies. RYZwear.com CEO Rob Langstaff says he has reduced the time it takes to get a new design to market from 12 months to six weeks. 

Bam! The One-Two Marketing Punch

Brand Week reports on Procter & Gamble’s use of the have been using the catch phrase, Bam!, coined by New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. P&G has been using Bam! for their Crest Whitening Expressions brand since 2003. The new Wintergreen Ice will get a new catch phrase via community design. Starting Monday, interested parties could submit videos depicting the brand in 10 words or less.

P&G is getting the word out with TV spots featuring Lagasse and a panel of judges evaluating contestants as they perform their catch phrase American Idol-style. Unlike RZY’s approach, this is a big budget venture with Saatchi & Saatchi handling the TV spots and Digitas taking care of online advertising.

With a big traditional consumer products company like Proctor & Gamble jumping on the crowd sourcing bandwagon is this trend really here to stay? Or will it go the way of those custom jeans that were supposed to be here by now – the ones that fit me and only me?

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  • I’ve seen many examples of this across my campus. In fact, I have a friend who competed and won in designing a new logo for the bus system. I think its a good idea, if used in the right market. With the internet becoming more popular every day and new innovations sprouting up from today’s teens and young adults, this marketing approach may be very successful with Gen Y.