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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 04-Oct-2018
Posted by: Daniel ZAPFL
Category: Innovation contest

How an Open Innovation Contest for customers strengthens your brand


Successful companies solve the problems for their customers. But if companies do not know exactly where their customers are under pressure, they lose the ability to launch innovations. You can counteract this danger with an Open Innovation Contest. Read this blog article to find out why you can gain particularly valuable impulses for your innovation management and how you can strengthen your brand at the same time. All this with a surprising example.

Customers often develop user cases themselves

The ÖBB Railjet takes passengers from Vienna's Westbahnhof railway station to the Tyrolean Ötztal valley within just under five hours. By the way, this is faster than any car can do with halfway legal use. This direct connection between the capital city and the breathtaking mountain world of Tyrol opens up many possibilities. Thanks to it, for example, racing cyclists who do not shy away from the early morning hours can swap the gentle hills of the Vienna Woods for the breathtaking gradients of the Tyrolean pass roads for one of their racing bike weekends. In the evening they drive the ÖBB back to Vienna. The hobby athlete then has the additional choice between one or more winning beers in the dining car or the well-deserved regeneration sleep.


Details inhibit the development of new markets

Unfortunately, one notices it from the equipment of the wagons that this use case was never thought of. After all, the space for bicycles is so small that only a few bikes can fit there. Models that are a little more spacious, heavy or particularly valuable, such as mountain bikes, e-bikes or carbon racing bikes, are extremely difficult to accommodate. If a group wants to start the road bike tour into the mountains, the project fails because the Railjet can transport the riders, but not their sports equipment.

Handbook 500 Ideas in 4 months


An Open Innovation Contest improves the senses of the company

In order to get to such detailed problems of its own customers, a company has to listen very carefully. For ÖBB, which is already very much in the public eye because of its role as the country's largest mobility service provider, this is difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, it is possible. With an Open Innovation Contest. This format allows us to collect the most important problems and needs of our own customers and to let this community work on solutions right away. If this process is then accompanied by Owned as well as Paid and Earned Media, such a contest strengthens the own brand immensely.


ÖBB launches platform for new ideas

ÖBB has already gone part of this way. The Group has set up its own open innovation platform. ÖBB customers can participate in discussions on important topics in customer forums and submit their ideas to the Open Innovation Challenge, which has been held regularly since 2016. The fourth round of this competition ended in August 2017 and called for ideas on the subject of "travelling with luggage". On the basis of many submissions, ÖBB was pointed out to a rather urgent problem: that traveling with luggage despite barrier-free stations is extremely challenging for some customer groups. In response to this finding, ÖBB launched a pilot project. Customers can book ÖBB employees in advance to help them carry luggage for a small fee.


The 5 advantages of the Open Innovation Contest

ÖBB benefits from the regular Open Innovation Contest several times over:

1) Customers get the feeling that ÖBB has an ear for their problems and is interested in solving them together.

2) The Open Innovation Contest has enabled the company to build a community of now 2,000 members, discussing problems and bringing in ideas.

3) The Open Innovation Challenge provides exciting content that ÖBB can report on in its own channels. The event also ensures positive media coverage.

4) The Open Innovation Challenge gives the ÖBB brand an innovative image. Especially for such an extremely exposed and often negative brand, this is extremely valuable.

5) Among the many ideas submitted, there are some that can improve customer service or even open up new markets for Deutsche Bahn. In theory, such a market would be a special offer for racing cyclists who are looking for variety for just one day. The already criticized space for bikes in the Railjet is a major obstacle here.

Many companies are already organizing an Open Innovation Contest. In most cases, it is companies that are regarded as much more innovative than the state enterprise. But this is precisely why ÖBB was chosen as an example. Such an initiative would perhaps not be expected from the company. But anyone who hears about ÖBB's Open Innovation Challenge for the first time will be surprised and will think "I would not have thought of ÖBB at this time". The good old railroad, therefore, suddenly emerges as an innovative company with the help of an idea competition.


An innovation contest works extremely fast

This positive surprise, which an Open Innovation Contest triggers with the customers, is a major strength of this format. If this format is carried out internally, i. e. only among the company's own employees, then the culture of innovation can be promoted quite quickly. In an Open Innovation Contest, the positive effect on the brand is even more important. Provided that the ideas competition is accompanied by the media. Such an Open Innovation Contest always generates enough relevant and interesting stories for the target group. It is important to tell them through one's own channels or to draw the attention of other media. Another crucial factor for success is that the Innovation Contest follows a strict system, such as that developed by LEAD Innovation.


Result: How to strengthen your brand with an Open Innovation Contest for customers

Listening has become something rare in our time. This is all the more regrettable because it would be possible to find many solutions. At the same time, many suffer from being heard too little or not at all. Companies whose customers are plagued by precisely this feeling successively lose contact with their target group and thus their relevance. An Open Innovation Contest is an effective way to say in public:"I'm listening to you now! This method is crowned with success when the invitation is taken seriously. Apart from that, tapping the crowd can be quite a nuisance.

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Daniel ZAPFL

Born in Graz, Austria. CEO of LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.

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