What is co-creation? A theoretical approach

What is co-creation? A theoretical approach

The pur­po­se of this arti­cle is to give you a short over­view about the tren­ding topic co-crea­ti­on from a theo­re­ti­cal, sci­ence-based per­spec­ti­ve. In the next cou­p­le of arti­cles I will wri­te about dif­fe­rent aspects of co-crea­ti­on like what it means for bran­ding and also how to use this approach in prac­ti­ce.

Co-Creation — what does it mean?

Having its roots wit­hin ser­vice lite­ra­tu­re, value co-crea­ti­on has not just beco­me a key con­cept across the manage­ment, inno­va­ti­on and mar­ke­ting disci­pli­ne, it also descri­bes the way how orga­niz­a­ti­ons as defi­ners of value from a tra­di­tio­nal per­spec­ti­ve start to open up their value crea­ti­on pro­ces­ses by shif­ting to a more par­ti­ci­pa­ti­ve approach in which cus­to­mers and orga­niz­a­ti­ons tog­e­ther gene­ra­te and deve­lop mea­ning (Ind and Coa­tes 2013).

The con­cept of value co-crea­ti­on was main­ly intro­du­ced in the busi­ness manage­ment lite­ra­tu­re by Pra­ha­lad and Rama­s­wa­my (2000). In their arti­cle, they make refe­rence to the chan­ge in roles of the dif­fe­rent actors. In par­ti­cu­lar, cus­to­mers lea­ve their tra­di­tio­nal roles as pas­si­ve audi­en­ces to beco­me acti­ve play­ers who co-crea­te busi­ness value.

In 2004, Var­go and Lush (2004) intro­du­ced a pro­vo­ca­ti­ve and sub­stan­ti­al logic in mar­ke­ting, name­ly ser­vice-domi­nant logic (SDL) which re-empha­si­zes a cus­to­mer per­spec­ti­ve and puts the cus­to­mer back into the cen­ter of mar­ke­ting theo­ry. SDL descri­bes the shift from the exchan­ge of tan­gi­ble goods to the exchan­ge of intan­gi­bles, for examp­le skills and know­ledge. In con­trast to the tra­di­tio­nal goods-domi­nant logic in which orga­niz­a­ti­ons pro­du­ce pro­ducts and cus­to­mers purcha­se them, SDL defi­nes ser­vice as the com­mon deno­mi­na­tor in exchan­ge.

In rela­ti­on to SDL, Var­go and Lush (2004) sug­gest that value is crea­ted by the cus­to­mer (also cal­led value-in-use) and is a result of the exchan­ge and inter­ac­tion pro­cess invol­ving ope­rant resour­ces of mul­ti­ple par­ties ins­tead of being embed­ded in the out­put per se. Their foun­da­tio­nal pro­po­si­ti­on is the acti­ve invol­ve­ment and inter­ac­tion with the com­pa­ny in every aspect. Even though the­re is a dis­cord regar­ding the com­pon­ents of co-crea­ti­on, several rese­ar­chers agree the value is embed­ded in the co-crea­ti­on pro­cess bet­ween the cus­to­mer and the orga­niz­a­ti­on.

It is not the cus­to­mer who beco­mes a co-creator of value, but rather the firm when per­forming as a ser­vice pro­vi­der get­ting oppor­tu­nities to beco­me a co-creator of value with their cus­to­mers.

Whe­re­as Lusch and Var­go (2006) argue that “the cus­to­mer is always a co-creator of value”, Grön­roos (2008; 2011), indi­ca­tes that this state­ment is too sim­plistic and the­re­fo­re mis­lea­ding due to the fact that co-crea­ti­on can only occur under cer­tain cir­cum­s­tan­ces. In con­trast to Lusch and Var­go (2006) who tre­at value crea­ti­on as co-crea­ti­on, he argues that if value-in-use is the adop­ted con­cept of value crea­ti­on, the cus­to­mer is always a value creator and the firm acts as a faci­li­ta­tor of value crea­ti­on. It is not the cus­to­mer who beco­mes a co-creator of value, but rather the firm when per­forming as as ser­vice pro­vi­der get­ting oppor­tu­nities to beco­me a co-creator of value with their cus­to­mers only in a joint sphe­re when mul­ti­ple par­ties inter­act.


Co-Creation & Marketing: Branding

The con­cept of the influ­en­ti­al, acti­ve and co-crea­ti­ve cus­to­mer has also been reco­gni­zed in brand rese­arch. The mea­ning of brand and bran­ding have been evol­ving over the last deca­des. The tra­di­tio­nal per­spec­ti­ve viewing com­pa­nies as its brands’ pos­ses­sor and the­re­fo­re estab­li­shing its posi­tio­ning (Kel­ler 1993) is obso­le­te. Today, brands are descri­bed as a result of a com­plex social pro­cess invol­ving various sta­ke­hol­ders (Muñiz and O’Guinn 2001; Merz, He, and Var­go 2009; Var­go and Lush 2004; Pay­ne et al. 2009). Accord­ing to this, the shift from an out­put ori­en­ta­ti­on to a pro­cess ori­en­ta­ti­on impli­cit that brand value is “co-crea­ted with all sta­ke­hol­ders and deter­mi­ned through all sta­ke­hol­ders’ collec­tively per­cei­ved value” (Merz, He, and Var­go 2009, p 340).

In the next arti­cle I will dis­cuss co-crea­ti­on in the con­text of bran­ding in more detail.




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Grön­roos, Chris­ti­an. „Value Co-Crea­ti­on in Ser­vice Logic: A Cri­ti­cal Ana­ly­sis“. Mar­ke­ting Theo­ry 11, Nr. 3 (Sep­tem­ber 2011): 279–301. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470593111408177.
Kel­ler, Kevin Lane. „Con­cep­tua­li­zing, Mea­su­ring, and Mana­ging Cus­to­mer-Based Brand Equi­ty“. Jour­nal of Mar­ke­ting 57, Nr. 1 (1993): 1–22. https://doi.org/10.2307/1252054.
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Merz, Micha­el A., Yi He, und Ste­phen L. Var­go. „The Evol­ving Brand Logic: A Ser­vice-Domi­nant Logic Per­spec­ti­ve“. Jour­nal of the Aca­de­my of Mar­ke­ting Sci­ence 37, Nr. 3 (Sep­tem­ber 2009): 328–44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-009‑0143‑3.
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Pay­ne, Adri­an, Kaj Stor­ba­cka, Pen­nie Frow, und Simon Knox. „Co-Crea­ting Brands: Dia­gno­sing and Designing the Rela­ti­ons­hip Expe­ri­ence“. Jour­nal of Busi­ness Rese­arch 62, Nr. 3 (März 2009): 379–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2008.05.013.
Pra­ha­lad, C. K., und Ven­kat Rama­s­wa­my. „Co-Crea­ti­on Expe­ri­en­ces: The next Prac­ti­ce in Value Crea­ti­on“. Jour­nal of Inter­ac­ti­ve Mar­ke­ting 18, Nr. 3 (1. Janu­ar 2004): 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/dir.20015.
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