Dow Chemical Engages Crowdsourcing as a Marketing Tool

Posted by jartese on Dec 19, 2013 2:37:51 PM

Earlier this Month, Dow Chemicals launched a Challenge titled, Seeking Ideas to Expand the Market for New Oil-Soluble Polyalkylene Glycols (“Oil-Sol PAG”).  Historically polyalkylene glycols, or “PAGs,” have been used as synthetic fluids and lubricants, their roots go back to Union Carbide and US Navy battleships.  Lisa Inoue, Global Strategic Marketing Leader at Dow Chemical describes the potential of this technology,

“This new chemistry is an oil-soluble variant.  Unlike traditional PAGs that are either water-soluble or water-insoluble, Dow’s “Oil-Soluble PAGs” can be mixed in hydrocarbon or mineral oils.  For the industrial and automotive sectors, this is huge.  Oil-Soluble PAGs are showing superior performance in industrial compressors and hydraulic systems, and increased energy efficiency in automotive applications. What’s really exciting about this new chemistry is the applications are broad and varied.” 

 Lisa goes on to explain why this Challenge is being put out to the global community of Solvers to provide their insights on proposed and unique applications that have a compelling value in the marketplace.

 ”Oil-Soluble PAG has infinitely more possibilities, ranging from textiles to agriculture to household cleaning products.  Many of its performance properties are unheard of – which is why we need to get the word out to the global community on this Challenge.”

Dow Chemical is following a growing trend of using open innovation and crowdsourcing to increase the value of existing, internally developed technology, by asking the crowd for market applications.  As Lisa highlighted, Oil-Sol PAG’s are not only more versatile than their non- Oil-Sol variation, but due to unique new properties, Dow isn’t completely sure of the full potential of the technology.

Enter the Crowd.

Dow is expecting global exposure to diverse minds, with diverse backgrounds and individual creativity to discover uses outside of the traditional lubricant oriented PAG uses.  Dow wants to know what they don’t know and instead of just creative uses in existing markets, they want to create new markets.

Challenges as a Marketing Tool

While Dow Chemical is crowdsourcing creative insight proposals for their Oil-Sol PAG technology in order to develop new products, Lisa Inoue also sees significant value of using the challenge format as a marketing tool to solve marketing problems.  InnoCentive is increasingly seeing Seekers use challenges in this way.

Market Research – Solutions will suggest to Dow Chemical if there are valuable markets outside those already known to them.  These crowd insights allow them to discover new Markets and explore developing new products to enter into these marketplaces.  All of this can be initiated by the market applications Dow Chemical will receive from the crowd.

Meeting the needs of consumers – A common use of crowdsourcing is to search for the ideas, needs and wants of consumers.  Since a well formed Challenge is an online and public forum, Seekers like Dow Chemical can also capture themes from the insights and solutions of those who will eventually use the products…and those who may never use the product but have a unique outside view on the problem.

Running a Challenge as a Marketing tool is becoming a more common practice. Samsung has been involved in multiple crowd-based searches for new uses of existing groundbreaking technology.  They crowdsourced a Challenge for ideas surrounding unique uses of their flexible screen technology; the Flexible Future Business Plan Contest had a grand prize of $10,000 and challenged participants to envision the future of Samsung products.  Samsung’s mission was similar to Dow’s; determine what markets and what directions should be pursued involving a showcased technology.

Filling a similar need for market research a challenge posted on InnoCentive’s network was titled, “Beverage Promotion Concepts – nightlife in China.”  Here the Seeker intended to better understand Chinese nightlife in order to better market premium beverages in an emerging market.  The Challenge allowed the seeker to reach people in that market and also those around the world who may understand not only Chinese nightlife, but are familiar with beverage promotion, cultural tendencies, and marketing and modern nightlife habits. Other uses for Challenges in marketing can be more design and message based.  Anheuser Busch sought input on packaging design for a popular growth product. The “Bud Light Lime Ritas Innovative Packaging Challenge” sought to elevate an existing market and product by optimizing branding.

The challenge as a vehicle for marketing has many advantages.  Challenges bring companies closer to the end user.  They allow companies to tap into unknown areas that may yield innovative new uses for technology.  Or more simply they can ask the crowd for creative ideas in order to be more aligned with what customers want.  Challenges allow marketers to reach answers that cannot be answered internally.

Authored by Joe Artese, Business Analyst

Topics: Innovation Insights

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