Having Trouble Innovating? Try Meow Mix.

Oct. 17, 2008
According to a recent report, the top 1,000 research and development spenders invested $447 billion on new-product development in 2006 alone. A recent McKinsey study comes to the completely intuitive conclusion that "true breakthroughs" have greater ...

According to a recent report, the top 1,000 research and development spenders invested $447 billion on new-product development in 2006 alone. A recent McKinsey study comes to the completely intuitive conclusion that "true breakthroughs" have greater upside than line extensions or incremental improvements.

For companies who have stalled out on idea generation, Chief Marketer shines a spotlight on Del Monte's Meow Mix Brand Group, which invited 650 cat owners to join an online community. . .to collectively participate in the ideation process."

According to the story, in eight weeks, the community generated upwards of 300 ideas, 15 of which were testable and 11 of which passed initial screening for product development purposes.

If you're looking to use online communities of users/customers to outsource your innovation process, the marketing gurus at Chief Marketer offer these four ways to encourage community engagement outside your four walls.

1. Stimulate creativity through topics, polls, chats and forums. Introduce members to topics and themes via message boards, chat rooms or blogs. Change the topic frequently to keep people coming back. Give users forums to discuss with their peers topics of their own choosing.

2. Recognize contributions through reputation systems. Award points and assign reputation levels to members based on the quality of their participation as recognized by their community peers. These systems help members feel incented to participate and gain recognition from the community.

3. Enable collaboration through subscriptions. Make it possible for people to follow the progress of their ideas (or those of others) via e-mail notifications and threaded discussions. This enables members to form virtual workgroups around an idea, so all interested parties track and collaborate around a concept as it evolves.

4. Create connections with member-to-member messaging. Enable members to send one another private messages through the community site. Nothing motivates return visits more than an inbox filled with messages from new friends.

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