Nicky Szmala
Tech / Innovation
Makerspaces: China’s New Innovation Engines

The Silicon Valley garage is now the Makerspace. Here, geeks, tinkerers and rocket scientists build new products and envision applications of the future. What might have been described as a hobby a few years ago can now be turned into a million dollar business (or even more) within a year or less.

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo provide access to a large audience of early adopters who are willing to donate or buy the product before it hits the stores. At the same time, new rapid prototyping methods like 3D printing and easier access to factory-scale production have leveled the playing field between small teams of entrepreneurs and MNCs.

The first virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift) and smart watch (Pebble) were both launched, not by billion dollar companies, but by small startups.

While this development might not have its roots in China, its future lies here. The production hub of the world is Shenzhen, where many western entrepreneurs come to seek their fortunes. At the same time, Chinese companies use the western-facing crowdfunding platforms to reach consumers outside of China.

Why is this relevant to brands, and how can we as marketers utilize this for our own brands or on their behalf? Here are strategies one might follow.



1) Product & Marketing needs to come together

Unexpected competition can now arrive at any time. And this doesn’t apply only to technology products. For example there are entrepreneurs eager to jump into the battle for market share in the FMCG category against billion dollar competition. With that in mind, marketers not only need to promote the products they currently have, but also need to utilize their consumer data to think of the next cash cow that they can bring to life together with their peers in R&D.

2) Utilize rapid prototyping

Simple paper sketches, software to create functional prototypes or 3D printing all can be part of the process. They all have one purpose: Quicker iteration and better understanding of how the final product will look and function.

3) Make your customers part of the product development

Rather than making all the decision for your consumers, let them be part of the creative process. They will be more than happy to contribute ideas on features, share opinions on things that could be improved and countless other ways that would make them love your brand even more.

To make it work its important that the product and marketing departments closely collaborate to act upon suggestions they receive.

4) Mitigate risks and build early adopters database by using crowdsourcing platforms

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not only for small startups. Big brands are also starting to test interest for new products by launching campaigns on these platforms. GE introduced their Bluetooth-enabled burner on Indiegogo and raised over 300,000 USD (exceeding the campaign goal by 599%).

5) Budget for future growth and iterations

Budgets in marketing are usually focused on specific campaigns to build awareness or increase demand, apart from numerous other KPIs. In an agile and fast moving environment, we need to phase budget spending in a way that allows us to improve and iterate on products.

So where to start? K1ND can help you to identify the right opportunity to innovate – either through developing a new product or way to market. Let’s take a look at how we do it:


Collect & Synthesize

This is our research phase where we look into the market opportunity, competition and user needs. Together with our clients we develop our hypothesis –  a set of research-proven assumptions. Rather than only giving clients an excel sheet with numbers or a vague presentation we deliver how the future could look like with that innovation through a visualized user story and product mockups (along some solid numbers).

Prototype & Iterate

What’s on paper becomes physical in phase 2 where we build a tangible prototype. No matter if its based on software or a new hardware device what we create works and can be tested. But we don’t stop here, we iterate until we are confident our new solution has its fair shot changing the world (or at least trigger the awareness of millions).

3) Launch & Scale

In our 3rd phase we share what we created with the world. Depending on the task we work together with our strong partners within Ogilvy & Mather to make the launch a success.

Does it work? K1ND just recently partnered with Haier’s R&D department to create a complete new product. Thanks to our process we went from sketches to working product in less than 2 months.

If you would like to talk about innovation, please send us an email at [email protected]

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