In the following guest article Roy Bernheim and Allan Perrottet, Co-Founders of sustainable male bodywear brand T-Bô, tell us how co-creation has helped their brand with its successful breakthrough.
We believe the best ideas are the result of collaboration. That’s why, from the start of our T-Bô male bodywear brand, we invited men from across the globe to co-create all of our products, the marketing content, events and other aspects of the brand. With the core value of co-creation, we are now worn by over 75,000 men in over 120 countries. So what’s the secret to building a co-created brand?
Our most important asset – the community
Our journey began 2 years ago when we realised that there was a problem with men’s underwear. It either failed to fit or it fit but looked terrible. Knowing how we felt, we decided to see if others felt the same way. We sent a simple email survey out to our 2-3,000 contacts - made up of touchpoints from social media, online forums, family and friends - asking 25 detailed questions on the subject. We did not offer incentives and more than half of the questions we asked were open-ended and broad, a tactic no market-researcher would ever recommend! The participation rate however showed a great result with over 44% recipients returning the survey within two days.
We realised this was a really useful method of refining our products as well as our customer experience and fulfilment. We carried on asking these questions to our community and 9 months later we realised what we were doing had a name – co-creation – and that no other fashion brand was doing this. We set about making it part of our brand’s DNA.
Spreading co-creation across all business areas
Co-creation doesn’t just mean gathering customer feedback on our products; it means actively involving people in the growth of the brand. It is about talking to your customers at eye level and generating the feeling that we are all in this together. Our experience shows that customers not only appreciate this but have remained loyal to us as a result - our repeat customer rate is at over a third within the six weeks of their first purchase. In fact, we believe all brands in the future will be built from the bottom up.
We now ask for our community to volunteer as “co-creational product developers” to test products that are in the pilot product phase. Co-creation essentially involves finding out what matters to people, so before even launching a new range we might ask our developers a really broad question such as “which category would you like to see more T-Bô products in?” Once we get to the prototype stage we would then share this to our wider community on Instagram and launch the product on a live-feed via social media and Kickstarter. In fact, livestreams have worked so well for T-Bô co-creation in the past that we are working on developing our own tool.
We now have a range of co-creation options for customers and interested parties to get involved in. For example we ask people if they want to model for us, create social media content for our social channels, become a guest blogger or help to distribute our products. Our TV spot, which we have launched as part of our deal with SevenVentures, features three non-professional models who are actually real-life customers from our community. All of our creators get full credit but this of course has cost advantages for us too. It’s a win-win situation.
We even co-create giving. We work with a charity called 1% for the Planet where we pledge to give away 1% of our revenue directly to charitable projects and we have asked our co-creation community to recommend and decide on the projects to support. It is the community’s money after all, so we feel that they should decide where it goes.
Men’s underwear: a perfect product for co-creation?
Of course, we are not the only company that uses co-creation in some way, nor is the concept completely new. But to our knowledge we are the only brand that has made co-creation part of its core DNA, which influences every aspect of the company. Furthermore, technology has only recently enabled organisations to engage in real-time and borderless co-creation.
We feel our product fits particularly well with the concept. Underwear is something people tend to have strong feelings about. It is worn every day, right next to the skin and it is a very personal choice. Underwear can either make you feel uncomfortable or confident for the day. It is these strong feelings which have helped us to build emotional connections with customers using co-creation.
As a co-creation brand we also came along at the right time. Men in today’s world find it difficult to share and our co-creation community space (currently on social media but we are looking to build our own tool) is a “safe space” for men to share their experiences and ask for advice. The response has been truly astonishing. T-Bô posts less than once per week, otherwise the community is almost completely user-led.
6 top tips for brands looking to co-create
We have learned a lot about co-creation over the last two years. Here are our top tips for brands looking to start:
Start with co-creation at the beginning of your brand journey: this creates an authentic relationship with the consumer and ensures that your brand benefits from essential early data points.
Trust in the data: A co-created brand is a data-driven brand. Remove your own opinion from the equation and trust the numbers.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. When you involve your customers in your brand you risk sometimes being uncomfortable with the result. But a commitment to co-creation means listening. In any case, our experience has shown that a brand with strong values tends to attract a tribe of people all leaning in a similar direction and therefore the risk of severe discomfort is low.
Think about the information and feedback you want to gather and use this as a basis for your questions. Don’t just ask questions just for the sake of engagement numbers. Take people seriously and the community will reward you for it.
Embed co-creation in the entire organisation, not only in product creation. Think of co-creation as generating moments that are a win-win for all sides as customers are not just looking to be sold to. Involving customers in all aspects of the brand journey (sales and marketing, to give just two examples) means you are building passionate long-term brand advocates who are also, quite literally, the faces of the brand.
Bring it to life. Co-creation is about doing. Lead by example, we’d love to invite YOU to get in touch with us, ask questions, share your thoughts and collaborate.
Find T-Bô Bodywear at https://www.tbo.clothing/
If you would like to learn more, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org