Case studies: Using the social web for new product development

I’m delighted to present today eight exciting new mini-case studies which demonstrate the power of social collaboration to create business value through new product development. These were curated by Amy Kenly and her team at innovation consulting firm Kalypso (Amy will also be a speaker at the April 27 Social Slam event!)

I think you’re going to be energized by these inspiring ideas!

Business Challenge: Getting real time analysis of which future candle scents customers would be most likely to favor.

Project Details: Instead of relying on traditional market research and trend analysis, Diamond Candles developed a way to crowdsource idea submission and voting from their existing customers.  The company then takes the top 10% of voter suggestions and cross-references that with market trend analysis to make final decisions on new scents to launch.

Results: The program received more than 250 new product ideas and 5,000 customer votes in just one month.  This has established a plan for the company’s R&D efforts.

Business Challenge: The Coca-Cola unit wanted to utilize Vitamin Water’s Facebook fanbase to design a new flavor.

Project Details: Vitamin Water’s flavor “Connect” was developed by the company’s Facebook fanbase; one Facebook fan won $5,000 for her role in development of the new flavor. The competition allowed VitaminWater’s Facebook fans to develop all aspects of the product, from selecting the flavor to designing the packaging and naming the product.

Results: More than 2 million VitaminWater Facebook fans participated in the new product development effort.

Business Challenge:
  Identifying a biomarker for ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease), a progressive and fatal neuro-degenerative disease.

Project Details: Working with the online crowdsourcing organization InnoCentive, Prize4Life launched a $1 million challenge to find an accurate way to track the progression of ALS and reduce the cost of ALS clinical trials. At least 50 teams competed from 18 different countries. Prize4Life’s Scientific Advisory Board voted to award the ALS Biomarker Prize to Dr. Seward Rutkove. As a result, Dr. Rutkove’s work has been accelerated and gained the attention of researchers from around the world.

Results: Using the biomarker discovered by Dr. Seward Rutkove reduced the cost for a clinical trial by 50 percent or more. As a result, the time required to determine the therapeutic benefit of a given drug in a clinical trial is shorter and requires fewer patients. This translates to potential therapies moving more quickly through the development pipeline, accelerating progress towards a treatment or cure for ALS, and creating incentive to invest resources in ALS drug development.

Business Challenge: To develop effective new ideas that address childhood obesity by increasing physical activity in “tweens.”

Project Details:  HopeLab, a nonprofit organization, created a competition called Ruckus Nation to address childhood obesity by using the global social web to generate ideas for products that will help kids stay active.

Results: HopeLab received more than 400 entries from 37 countries and 41 U.S. states. In tests conducted by HopeLab, many of the ideas submitted have displayed strong potential for HopeLab’s product development efforts and six ideas resulted in patent applications.

Business Challenge: Develop products that solve customer problems, meet a need or increase efficiencies, on a limited research & development budget.

Project Details: Madison Electric’s commitment to innovation led the company to launch the Sparks Innovation Center- the industry’s first crowdsourced, collaborative approach to product development. Through their website (, anyone is invited to submit ideas for new products. The Madison Electric team assesses each idea’s merit, and the best ideas are then presented to a focus group through the company’s online Contractor Forum.

Results: Generating nearly 100 submissions thus far, the Sparks Innovation Center has been the point of origin for five profitable new Madison Electric products and another four are currently now in the production phase. The center has evolved into a go-to resource for inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs in the electronics industry.

Business Challenge: Managing resources throughout multiple time zones, geographies and languages to deliver new products and version releases.

Project Details: To address the challenges in managing a far-flung internal development staff, CDC Software relies on social network technologies to develop and deliver software from teams around the world.  These social technologies are used at each step of the development process, including the commercial effort.

Results: CDC cut the time of product delivery from 24 months to 12-16 weeks. These cloud-based social technologies have promoted tight collaboration among their R&D offices across 14 countries, streamlined knowledge transfer and cut costs.

Business Challenge: Accelerating time to market and time to revenue generation.

Project Details: The Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform Business Unit (ECP BU) is a cross-functional development group that included team members from program management, product management, user experience, engineering, quality assurance, and their executive sponsors. This team used an internal social platform to create a collaborative community and integrate their work processes and achieve rapid product iterations.

Results: The team delivered its first major release within 12 months, a reduced product time to market that equated to an average 12 percent productivity gain per employee, or 28,000 labor hours.

Business Challenge: Leveraging knowledge and ideas beyond the company walls to develop new power grid technologies.

Project Details:  In 2010, GE announced the Ecomagination Challenge, a global contest that was an open call for power grid innovations.  Together with top venture capital firms, GE committed up to $200 million to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and bring them to market. $100,000 awards were offered for each of five winning ideas along with the potential to collaborate with GE and its VC partners.  Ideas were routed to subject matter experts and a final panel of judges to determine the winners.

Results: The Ecoimagination Challenge website had 70,000 participants from more than 150 countries, contributing 3,844 ideas and more than 120,000 votes. Twelve projects were selected to partner with GE and received development funds totaling $55 million. The contest’s most popular submissions received a $50,000 cash award and GE also granted $100,000 each for five promising products ideas.

So there you have it — some really awesome examples of social networking and global collaboration.  What had an impact on you?

All posts

  • Great examples Mark. Maybe someone has an example from banking oder finance too? I would be delighted about those

    Kind regards from Germany


  • I really love what Vitamin Water did. Social platforms are hugely powerful for big consumer product brands to conduct this kind of research, not only because it generates results but also because they built community at the same time – wouldn’t be the case with traditional research. 

  • Nope, Social Media has no ROI (Investment just to be clear)…… *SG* (sarcastic grin)….. This kind of stuff IS the unarguable reality!!! What’s even more interesting to me is not only have some of these projects already proven $$$ returns, they did so while delivering social and humanistic benefits whose commerical values have yet to be measured.  I still believe that anyone who claims the use social media has no real business justification hasn’t dug deep enough or thought in broad enough terms.

    Thanks for sharing (yet again) more great examples to help people “get it”! 

  • Pingback: Case studies: Using the social web for new product development | CoCreation News()

  • I will keep my eyes open for that!

  • Yup.  i don;t know how they calculate the ROI of community but I’ll bet they do : )  Vitamin Water is a great success story all-around.

  • I had an idea that you might like these case studies Steve!  Thanks for stopping by!

  • Marty Thompson

    One of the most interesting applications of this type of activity has to be Foldit. 
    The use of a gaming environment to solve scientific problems has already reaped rewards for scientists. One question I have is whether or not gamers should be compensated for solving problems that ultimately lead to commercial products or procedures. 

  • Pingback: Best of B2B Marketing Zone for January 9, 2012 « Sales and Marketing Jobs()

  • Pingback: Case studies: Using the social web for new product development | Web Tech News()

  • Jnoble

    banking/finance examples, I would check out this article on the work Swift has
    been doing in global collaboration outside firewalls-  Both Swift and GE in thier Ecomagination
    Challenge use Brightidea software for not only engagement and collection of
    ideas, but backend decision-making and execution

  •  Mark:

    GREAT compilation! I was thrilled by the Prize4Life example, as my father had ALS.

    Another interesting note: The most creative seemed to draw out individual competitive effort. As I have written in my irregular blog, group collaboration seems to inhibit ideas.


    – Gary

  • Thank you for the unique list with great examples for getting input from customers for product development.  A link to the controversial Mark Cuban’s opinion on why not to let customers drive product development  Arguably smart companies find the balance. 

  • Anonymous

    Hey Mark – very cool! Did you know it goes even more granular than that — IT product managers and business analysts are also starting to use social media and crowdsourcing in what they call “requirements elicitation.” This is the process of developing documentation for IT product features, so developers can code those features, by defining *exactly* what users must have, in an effort to cut out the merely nice to have and the “what’s added in to appease a VP”?

    See what one of my colleagues, Jeremy Gorr, has written on that topic here:

    (Disclaimer: not only do Jeremy and I work together, I co-presented at the last ProductCamp Austin with him on requirements and social media. It was awesomely fun.)

  • Pingback: Crowdsourcing, Competition, and Creativity: When Highbrow Meets High Tech()

  • David waiits

    Hello there! This article could not be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing! 10 best home based business ideas

  • Pingback: Deep Customer Insights From Social Media Listening Transform Research and Development - Snaptrends()

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Tom Webster.

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details


Send this to a friend