How Swarovski Capitalized on the Crowd
A competition to uncover innovations in luxury lifestyle electronics designs.
Embarking on open innovation opportunities with customers offers a company or brand new thinking, fresh perspectives, untapped ideas and publicity.
Swarovski the cut crystal and luxury products retailer is no stranger to open innovation platforms. It has engaged the public in numerous initiatives including its Lifestyle Electronics Competition 2011
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Participants such as electronics designers and consumers were invited to incorporate Swarovski gems into lifestyle electronics (mobile phones, notebooks, earphones, headsets, USB sticks, cameras, e-books etc.) and submissions were based on four key design directions: Highly Luxurious, Daily Business, Let’s Party and Casual Sports.
Designs could be uploaded to the competition website or participants could use a toolkit to configure a mobile phone. Submissions were judged by a panel that included key Swarovski executives and they based their decisions on the following selection criteria: creativity, feasibility, innovative use of Swarovski gems and consideration of a gadget’s technical features.
The competition was deemed a great success with more than 600 freely created and almost 2,000 configured designs.
The prize for the overall winning design went to Langhua Xie from China for her “Lotus” design – an innovative luxury MP-3 player with speakers and earphones. Other prizes were awarded to first and second places in each design category and winners included ‘Living Colour Earphones’ (Casual Sports)by Csaba Hegedus and stunning bejewelled headphone splitters (Daily Business) by Li Peiming.
The goal of the competition was not to get a product straight to the marketplace, but to put the spotlight on design innovation (and the company’s gems) and to stimulate and inspire the consumer electronics market to innovate luxury lifestyle electronics designs. In addition, it was hoped that the competition would allow Swarovski to gain insights into global trends in consumer electronics.
Although there was no immediate intention to sparkle consumers with products based on the winning designs Swarovski reserved the right to realize any of them as prototypes.
Open innovation competitions such as these are popular with the crowd for a number of reasons. Prize money is of course one incentive, but others include fun, recognition, the intellectual challenge, and the opportunity to engage in discussions with peers.
Today’s consumers are changing; they no longer want to be passive recipients of products but instead are eager to exchange ideas and opinions and offer solutions to challenges faced by their favourite brands. Social media tools make it very easy for them to interact.
Forward-thinking companies can take advantage of such passion and interest and work with their customer base. But to do so requires putting in a lot of thought about the best way to capitalize on the crowd.
It is unwise to just jump on open innovation and crowdsourcing seeing them as shortcuts to making some fast bucks. They can indeed become valuable components of an innovation portfolio but only when the most appropriate mechanism is selected.
A well organised, carefully structured and perfectly executed competition can create a win-win scenario all round that can lead to ground breaking new products and services or at the very least fresh thinking and novel insights.
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