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The Best Examples of Crowdsourced Innovation

The best brands know that innovation isn’t bound by the walls of their own companies. Sometimes, tapping an experienced, engaged or highly skilled crowd is the answer.

Over the last 20 years, especially after the advent of crowdsourcing software, it has become easier than ever for brands to crowdsource innovation - whether it’s internally (from employees or stakeholders), or externally (brand fans, external experts or the general public). Many brands have taken advantage of crowdsourcing to come up with some of their most memorable innovations. Here are some great examples:

LEGO Ideas

If you ask people to give you a great example of a brand crowdsourcing innovation, LEGO Ideas is probably one of the most popular answers. Since first wading into crowdsourcing with the launch of LEGO Cuusoo in 2008, and then the launch of the LEGO Ideas community powered by Chaordix in 2012, LEGO has produced more than a dozen kits based on ideas that were submitted .

Because the submissions have to garner support from within the community in order to be selected for review, ideas can have a massive following before they are even close to being available on the market. Some of the most popular kits include:

LEGO recognizes the value of each winning creator – their fame doesn’t stop within the community. LEGO gives them the full rockstar treatment and they even receive 1% of royalties. It’s a great way to incentivize the crowd to keep working on project ideas.

Ford Motor Company

Crowdsourcing isn’t limited to finding new products. American car manufacturer Ford used Chaordix software to find transportation innovations. They engaged citizens in New York City and Detroit to crowdsource the biggest transportation barriers in their communities, and promote open innovation with customers and entrepreneurs to find solutions to these challenges.

Related Read: The benefits and limitations of crowdsourcing

The crowd innovation communities, which were called ‘Mobilize New York’ and ‘Go Detroit’, yielded more than 6,000 ideas from more than 1,700 participants, and helped kickstart solutions to the transportation barriers that were identified by each community.

Ford, together with local transport partners, helped provide prize money and support for the implementation of the winning solutions that were designed for each community’s needs. The Ford Smart Mobility challenges showed that Ford’s reach is beyond being an automaker – they are also an innovative mobility provider.


Starbucks is well-known as a company that understands that its most important stakeholders are its customers. For almost 10 years, Starbucks had their own crowdsourcing platform called MyStarbucksIdea.com, where anyone was able to submit any idea to make Starbucks better. From this platform, Starbucks introduced some of the products and services that we just take as part of the Starbucks experience today, such as:

  • Free in-store wifi
  • Splash sticks (to keep your coffee in your to-go cup where it belongs)
  • Products such as the Hazelnut Macchiato and cake pops

My Starbucks Idea is also a great example of a brand making use of a platform that they owned in order to engage with their fans. They might not have known it at the time of launch (or maybe they did), but Starbucks was able to keep a consistent experience on My Starbucks Idea because they did not use an external platform or social network in order to run their online community. They were not subject to trends or changes with social media platforms.

Read Next: Top crowdsourcing trends shaping the future of innovation and marketing

The ideas that also came from the platform, for the most part, were simple to consider and develop. This transparency and the relatively short timeline from idea to implementation made Starbucks fans feel like they were truly being heard by the company and that they had a say in their own experiences with the brand. My Starbucks Idea was closed in 2017 and Starbucks changed their Ideas site to a contact form.

PepsiCo / FritoLay

A simple crowdsourcing campaign that paid off handsomely was Lay’s ‘Do Us A Flavor’. For several years, FritoLay has crowdsourced new flavors for its Lay’s potato chips through this campaign. The first campaign ran in 2012, a time when the brand’s market share was declining. After 10 months, Lay’s enjoyed improvements in their ad awareness, purchase intent, and their Buzz Score. They also increased social media engagement as they maximized the ways that people could vote for their flavor of choice. Most importantly, upon the announcement of the winning flavor, Lay’s saw an 8 percent sales increase following its launch.

Don't Miss: 4 reasons why your crowdsourcing campaign might fail

Since the success of the first ‘Do Us A Flavor’ campaign conducted in the US, FritoLay has run the contest in several countries and regions such as Canada and the UK. They have also used the campaign to encourage people to try their other product lines such as Lay’s Classic, Lay’s Wavy and Lay’s Kettle Cooked. Submitters not only get to come up with a flavor – they also get to choose what kind of chip to use. The campaign remains remains popular with consumers as new flavors are submitted every year.

What are some of your favorite examples of crowdsourced innovation? Check out some of our favorite projects at Chaordix!

CINO's Guide to Open Innovation


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