A better way to co-create – build relationships while building innovation

Consumers can be an incredibly rich source of ideas for product and brand development, and collaborating with them can increase not just R&D productivity (Huston & Sakkab, 2006), but brand competitiveness as well (Bendapudi & Leone, 2003). And while co-creation for innovation is by its very nature one of the closest forms of collaboration between firms and consumers, very little has been said about how engaging in co-creation affects the consumer-brand relationship.

Through a combination of surveys and in-depth interviews conducted to address the above-mentioned paucity of research, Hsieh and Chang (2016) discover a complex relationship between a number of factors in co-creation – such as the perceived benefits of co-creation and the brand-self connection (i.e. the extent to which a consumer feels the brand reflects their core values) – which affect brand co-creation engagement. Engagement, in turn, increases purchase intention and brand citizenship behaviour – which both signify a stronger relationship with the brand.

In simpler terms, when co-creation is done right – when it appeals to the brand-self connection, and when it makes users feel competent, autonomous, and related to the brand – it increases the engagement users feel with both the co-creation platform and the brand. This increase in engagement has positive implications not only for purchase intention, but also for the intention to help others co-creators and offer feedback on their ideas. Therefore, engaging in co-creation projects does not only provide a firm with ideas for innovation – it can actually deepen consumer engagement, which can be leveraged into stronger brand equity as well.

Figure 1. A simplified model of how co-creation projects build engagement and brand benefits


Three principles for designing platforms that maximise co-creation engagement

  • Set clear objectives and guidelines, but encourage users to come up with diverse solutions within them. When the goals of co-creation are clear, consumers submit higher quality ideas and feel more competent at handling the task – and higher perceived competency leads to higher engagement. Co-creation tasks that allow users to think outside of the box and apply different skills are more engaging and enjoyable, and thus also lead to more positive brand affect.
  • Foster collaboration, not competition. When users encounter strong competition in a co-creation contest, it reduces their perceived self-competence and their level of engagement. On the other hand, a strong co-creation communities and a feeling of relatedness can provide consumers with a sense of belonging and a stronger sense of brand co-creation engagement – which can in turn increase purchase intention and brand citizenship behaviour. Therefore, brands should focus on maintaining a positive and trusting environment on their co-creation platforms, and giving users the opportunity to communicate with both the firm and each other.
  • Promote strong brand values. When consumers feel that a brand is congruent with their core values, they are not only more engaged with the brand and more likely to advocate it to their acquaintances – they are also more likely to take an active role in co-creation projects. Ensuring that a brand’s offline communication materials convey the brand’s core values will help breed an active online community.



Bendapudi, N., & Leone, R.P. (2003). Psychological implications of customer participation in co-production. Journal of Marketing, 67 (1), 14-28.

Huston, L., & Sakkab, N. (2006). Connect and develop. Harvard Business Review, 84 (3), 58-66.

Hsieh, S.H., & Chang, A. (2016). The psychological mechanism of brand co-creation engagement. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 33, 13-26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2015.10.001

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