– Customer Driven Innovation/Design

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by: Karl Long is a T-Shirt company and it has some of the coolest, most beautiful, original T-Shirts I’ve ever seen.

Not only that, almost all their designs are “award winners”, in other words is an ongoing T-Shirt competition, in which its customers submit designs and its customers vote on designs they like and if that wasn’t enough its customers also submit photo’s of T-shirt sightings, phew. In this case though customers is almost inaccurate, i mean, they are psudo employees.

Take a look at this frequently asked question:

Who designs the Threadless product?
You do! is an on-going tee shirt design competition, anyone can submit their design and if it gets a high enough score and is chosen by the Threadless crew it will be printed and sold from the site.

Most of the product found on Threadless is a result of the competition. A few of the shirts were printed outside of the contest, some of which were commissioned by Threadless to various well-known designers.

Because Threadless offers a serious cash prize for winners $1500 + $500 worth of credit with Threadless, they get some serious entries from a lot of great designers. For designers that win they get plenty of publicity from it as well.

The interesting thing about this model is it brings up lots of questions of trust, money and ownership. In other-words Threadless only works because of the very high level of trust between the people submitting designs and the people running Threadless.

It is interesting to look at because companies that want to build deeper relationships with customers, and take advantage of WOM, “consumer generated” content, and other more valuable interactions must build trust. Without a fundamental foundation of trust attempts at this kind of marketing will either wither and die, or backfire entirely.

Here are some things that I think help build trust:

  • Authenticity – an amorphous term I know, but just try and be genuine, stay away from traditional marketing superlatives and hyperbole
  • Transparency – not only talk about what’s happening, what your doing, make feedback and your responses transparent
  • Humility – be more human, don’t try and be perfect, and don’t pretend you are either
  • Constancy – in visual look, action, words, and behavior

I’d be glad to hear more ideas for how to build trust, I find it a fascinating topic.

Other reading on trust:

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