Crowdsourcing Inspiration from the Sole

Published May-11-15

Customer inspiration sparks new shoe ideas for independent Canadian shoe company.

Fluevog, Canada

The Story:

Crowdsourcing Inspiration from the Sole John Fluevog Shoes doesn't just rely on its designers and founder John Fluevog to come up with exciting new creations. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company also welcomes contributions from the crowd. Borrowing an idea from open source software, Fluevog launched open source footwear, where anybody can have an input into the types and styles of shoes they want to see.

Fluevog's crowdsourcing efforts began in the early 2000s. In part, they came about because customers kept handing the founder design sketches whenever he popped into his retail stores.

Best Foot Forward

Although Fluevog has organised numerous crowdsourcing competitions, members of the public can submit their ideas at any time via the company's website. There is no hard and fast deadline, because John Fluevog selects designs as and when they catch his eye. His decision may also be influenced by the amount of social media love being given to a submission.

Crowd members don't make any money from their chosen concepts, because they are open source and therefore nobody owns them. However, the shoe will be named after them and they will receive a free pair. The company may use all or part of the design or base their own design on it.

Inspirational Designs

Since Fluevog started reaching out to the crowd, numerous designs from the general public have made it onto store shelves. They include:

• A shoe design called “Nostalgia” by Jody Elizabeth, a video compositor and graphic designer for
a television and web broadcaster. Her design was inspired by "the look of the different Ball &
Claw feet of Cabriole furniture legs on tables, chairs, bathtubs, and settees".

• Web designer DJ Watson won an early crowdsourcing contest in 2003 with his "Love Rodeo
Watson" shoes.

• A boot design called "The Nannette" by designer, creative writer and inventor Janet Erwin. The
footwear is a stylish and comfortable boot that is suitable for horse riding.

• Merrilee Fluevogs by Merrilee Liddiard were produced in fall 2005 and were a modern classy
shoe inspired by the saddle shoes that Merrilee wore when she was a child.

Benefits of Co-Creation

The shoe company’s crowdsourcing initiatives benefits both parties. For budding designers, they can provide valuable kudos and exposure. Meanwhile, Fluevog, which still designs many of its own shoes, gets regular injections of creativity from diverse sources. It also reaps benefits from subsequent social media and marketing exposure.

Some enterprises are drawn to co-creation because it can reduce innovation risks, by making a product around which there is already a buzz. They already know that they will be meeting customer needs, for example by making a product that has won a crowdsourcing contest. At the same time they are learning about what interests consumers.

Although some organisations view co-creation with customers as a bit of a gimmick, they can be a viable way of creating popular new products and boosting the bottom line.

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