Novel Designs for Daimler's Smart Car

Published Mar-18-10

An overwhelming response to Daimler’s “Style Your Smart” open innovation competition results in thousands of new vehicle exterior designs.

Daimler, Germany

The Story:

Novel Designs for Daimler's Smart Car Daimler’s “Style Your Smart” open innovation contest yielded 50,000 ideas in a six week period as 8,000 participants from more than 100 countries used their creativity to help the car manufacturer innovate.

Finding the Right Open Innovation Vehicle

Identifying and implementing the right open innovation activities are key determinants of success as an ever increasing number of companies are discovering when they look to the outside world for new ideas.

Roaring into the fast lane with their own approach to open innovation is Daimler and the “Style Your Smart” competition - a worldwide contest to create a new design for the Smart ForTwo car.

Customer Enthusiasm

The company decided to take advantage of their customers’ enthusiasm for the Smart brand. “In our daily contact with our customers we keep experiencing how passionate they are about Smart,” said Marc Langenbrinck, Managing Director Smart brand and Head of Sales & Marketing Smart. "Many of them personalize their smart with products from our wide range of accessories. Lots of them go even further and realize their own ideas. We are now taking this up.”

The idea for the competition came from the company’s “Business Innovation Community", a Web platform on the Daimler intranet where employees post and rate ideas. It was one of more 1,300 ideas that were discussed.

Phenomenal Open Innovation Success

“Style Your Smart” was open for around six weeks and participants were invited to use the company's online toolkit to create, or they could submit their own designs. The take up was phenomenal. Within 10 days of launch 10,000 unique ideas had been submitted.

“The response to this competition greatly exceeded our expectations – in terms of both quantity and quality", continued Langenbrinck.

During the competition contestants exchanged opinions and evaluated each other’s ideas which resulted in more than 600,000 online ratings.

Cash Prizes

The submissions were adjudicated by an expert panel of judges who based their verdict on these ratings. The overall winner with the most creative design was Tamir Shefer from Jaffa, Israel who received prize money totaling €1,500 (approx USD $2,000). Some participants were also awarded cash prizes for being the most active on the website and three other designs picked up prize money.

The exercise was so successful that even though the open innovation competition is over the "Style Your Smart" website lives on, and the community of Smart car enthusiasts continues to come up with new designs. Although these won’t be submitted to a jury for adjudication it is a useful and low-cost exercise for Daimler as they continue to monitor the creativity of their customers.

The open innovation competition has been valuable to the car company for at least two reasons. First it is a very cheap marketing tool, and secondly it informs their innovation process by providing them with information on the designs and color combinations that customers prefer.

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