Are you experimenting alone – Time to integrate “social” into your innovation process

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While many enterprises may claim they care about innovation, very few of them are committed to do it or can inspire the culture of innovation. To explore the full potential of innovation, business leaders including product marketers, product strategists, brand managers, and strategic planners need to change many of the ways in which they all […]

While many enterprises may claim they care about innovation, very few of them are committed to do it or can inspire the culture of innovation. To explore the full potential of innovation, business leaders including product marketers, product strategists, brand managers, and strategic planners need to change many of the ways in which they all think. In the previous write up Social Media – A new “must have” in a product marketers’ toolkit I expressed my thoughts on how some enterprises started leveraging social media – not just for marketing purposes, but to design new and improve their existing products/services.

While social media is influencing the number of industries, yet for an industry like Pharma/Lifesciences, regulation becomes an additional level of complexity/bottleneck. But it is also noticeable that consumer trends are prompting pharma companies to put more weight behind digital strategies.

As Pharma started investing in disease categories and bringing coordination between patients, caregivers and pharma professionals – An excellent example was provided by Sanofi-Aventis, when this global pharma giant announced its aim of becoming the world leader in diabetes care. I recently came across Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Innovation Challenge site: Data Design Diabetes ( Sanofi U.S. believes combining data, diabetes, and design will impact nation’s wellness significantly. The Innovation Challenge is aligned with the U.S. government’s initiative to use an open dialogue to drive action toward a three-part aim: innovation in the quality, delivery and cost of diabetes care. The company kicked off its second annual contest, which aims to boost development of apps and other tools to make life easier for people with diabetes, as it relates to diabetes, and prizes include more than $100,000 in awards. According to Sanofi’s Dennis Urbaniak, VP US diabetes, “Offering a $100,000 prize has yielded ideas in six months that would have taken four to five years to develop at ten times the cost”. Several other pharma companies, including Janssen and Novartis, have also launched innovation style contests – To create a win-win situation, start ups are getting media attention, patients are getting new solutions, and pharma companies are getting new innovators, also they are saving huge money by crowdsourcing and working with innovators.

Another example of Levi Strauss & Co., one of the leading apparel manufacturers – Since late 2009, Dockers wants to help men and inspire them to start telling ideas about what it means to be a man today and introduced a Dockers campaign –“Wear the pants”. The campaign intends to put forth a new definition of masculine, one that embraces strength, sensitivity, and ultimately encourages men to once again “Wear the Pants”. The “Wear the Pants” campaign was created in partnership with DraftFCB, San Francisco and is fully integrated with social media, in-store and digital marketing components. To enter the contest, men had to submit a plan of actualizing the dreams, whether professional or personal. Dockers also presented one lucky winner with $100,000 in the wear the pants contest in 2011.

In an era of social networking, consumers will provide more input into the innovation process

How external parties help in social innovation:

  • Opportunity to listen and embrace consumers: Your customers are becoming most influential as they are creating a dedicated information network. Companies must listen and embrace this new perspective and allow them to help create new products.
  • Provide direct customer input: Social technologies help identify direct customer inputs earlier in the product life-cycle stage – Product teams can engage with customers from initial product assessment, to testing phases, and even into pricing process.
  • Higher possibility of meeting customer needs: It’s always good to learn what your customers really need – for that you must watch them and talk with them.  A good understanding of your customers’ specific issues and concerns can help you apply the creative efforts to design a right solution.
  • Ideas outside of your existing team: Companies like Best Buy, Ford, GE, Dell and Starbucks are most organized and prominent ones that have introduced idea generation websites – where consumers offer feedback on existing products, services, and experiences, as well as creative new ideas.

Identity social media platforms to enable customer participation:

  • Facebook: As of February 2012, Facebook has more than 845 million active users – A platform that is easily accessible to anyone with internet access. Take advantage of it, be active and responsive – It encourages you to consider the audience perspective as you plan your activity (i.e. ask questions, gather insight, and identify product improvement areas).
  • Twitter: Twitter provides a great opportunity to connect, build following and pinpoints idea raising questions. Post all types of relevant information about your company, and products/services. Twitter is all about sharing information, and it encourages you to promote conversation by asking questions.
  • Corporate Blog: A corporate blog gives an opportunity to share conversation with your customers and showcase your company’s vision rather than just making announcements; also it allows a window to the company values and encourages employee participation, discussion on issues, collective intelligence and a sense of community.
  • Public community: Enterprises are shifting their marketing budgets from traditional to more digital forms – Its’ time to identify the lead users for focused product development opportunities and understand the value of public communities for insights.
  • Listening platform: Listening platforms have been around from some time, revealing insights for brand perception and product innovation. Marketers can actively use listening platforms for research and to identify opportunities for product improvement; also they can create a production figured dashboard to control access to data that is relevant to the team.

So, isn’t that right to say, this trend is on the rise – Marketers are using social media as an influential way to incorporate their messaging into conversations with consumers. With the combination of listening and embracing, enterprises can leverage the wisdom of consumers to test ideas, develop strong relationships and engage consumers to drive innovation into the market.

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