The Modern Marketer

Keeping up with the times

Kickstarting your Quirky

Have an amazing product concept, but don’t have any idea how to go about turning it into an actual, functioning product? Quirky can help.

Founded in 2009 by then 23 year old Ben Kaufman, Quirky is a one of a kind business that turns “community-generated ideas into products that are actually being sold.” When their website first launched, they were receiving about 30 product idea submissions per week. Today, they receive about 2,000. To date they have received over 75,345 submissions from a community of over 581,000 inventors, and from those submissions they have successfully developed and sold 393 products. Products that, according to Alyson Shontell, are “stupidly simple but wildly successful”.

Porkfolio Packaging1153_BLACK

Above: the “Porkfolio“, a smart-piggybank that links with an app on your phone to keep track of its balance.

Below: the “Nibble“, a non-stick cake pan with a tasting cup.


The question then, is why? If these products are so “stupidly simple”, why are they so successful?

The answer, lies in consumer co-creation.

Co-creation is basically a marketing strategy based on market orientation, or, “looking at consumer needs and creating products that fill those needs.” It recognizes that consumers know what they, and other consumers want. And that if companies listened, they could learn exactly how to fill those wants.

There are, however, many factors that can either motivate co-creation, or impede its success.


Consumers are motivated to participate in co-creation by four general factors. Financial rewards, social benefits, knowledge, and psychological reasons. Quirky is a good example of a company that provides virtually all of these motivations. There are three main steps that consumers can participate in during the process of creating a Quirky product.


1. Submission- submitting your product concept to the Quirky website

2. Decision- each of the thousands of products submitted to Quirky each week is posted to the website for consumers to vote on. If you see a product you love, click “vote”, it’s as simple as that.

3. Influence and Earn- once a product makes it through to the design phase, community members can submit suggestions for everything from the color of the product, to the size, to the price. If a suggestion they make is used, they get a percentage of the profit.

By making suggestions and voting on products, consumers are giving the opportunity to make money: financial rewards. They are also giving themselves an outlet for creativity: psychological reasons, and receiving the knowledge that they may be aiding in producing a product that will benefit others: social benefits. Lastly, by exchanging information and bouncing ideas off of others online, they are gaining knowledge.


Unfortunately, not all co-creation business models work as well as Quirky’s. One fairly well-known one that has been running into trouble, is Kickstarter. There are four main impedimentsthat firms run into with co-creation: concerns about secrecy, ownership of intellectual property, information overload, and infeasible production. The two of these impediments that Kickstarter has had the biggest problems with, are concerns about secrecy and infeasible production.

These two go somewhat hand in hand. One of the main issues with Kickstarter, is that anyone can submit a project request and earn money to create a product. They don’t have to know anything about the product they are creating. When Alyson asked Kickstarter if  she, “a reporter with no knowledge of hardware manufacturing, could have submitted a campaign like the Pebble smart watch(a watch designed to sync with your smartphone)”, she was told “Yes.”. And if the inventor of the product concept has no knowledge whatsoever of the industry within which his product falls, it stands to reason that more often than not, producing the product will be infeasible. As of now however, there is virtually no way for an investor on Kickstarter to tell if the person behind the product concept is capable of actually delivering on their promise, which is where the concerns about secrecy come in.

That’s not to say that Kickstarter hasn’t had any successes. There is for instance, the “Ostrich Pillow”.

But that’s really about all I could find. Kickstarter considers a project “successfully funded” when it reaches its goal online, not when it actually makes it into production, opening, etc. Which makes it hard to tell what their success rate truly is. So for Kickstarter, the co-creation method may have some glitches that need to be sorted out, but in general, if you understand the pros and cons, consumer co-creation can be an amazing strategy that gives you a leg up in the competition. Quirky is a great example of that.


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