Using Community Collaboration to Spur Constant Innovation
Bret Kovacs' title—Quirky's head of community—tells you all you need to know about his company.
"Community is why Quirky exists," Mr. Kovacs says. "Our job is to get our members' great ideas onto the site." Quirky's community members, currently 1 million, submit ideas that are evaluated by the company's experts and test marketed to other members. To date, about 350 products have been developed—and about 150 sold—on the Quirky website and through retail partners.
Mr. Kovacs, who joined Quirky three years ago, has a job that gives him responsibility for three areas: marketing, digital and social content, and community management.
He is recognized as a Digital Trailblazer for his innovative work with online community engagement and for using crowdsourced data as a critical part of the product development and marketing process at Quirky.
Q: Tell us about a moment in your career that was pivotal and why it affected you?
Mr. Kovacs: I was two years out of college. I was working at a job, and it was clear what career track I should take. But I have never been someone to stay on the straight path. I made a conscious decision to take jobs I find interesting and love to do—to abandon the noise in my ear that told me what I "should" do. I have found that it takes a bit of discipline to say, "I want to do what I love" and stick with that.
Q: What are your must-haves or must-dos to stay on top of what's important, trendy and new in digital?
Mr. Kovacs: That's an impossible task. At the end of the day, I read my go-to people and site set. In addition, I'm always getting out on the street and watching people's habits—at the coffee shop, a bar, even at the office. What are people doing and talking about in the moment? Being on the ground is so important to what we do.
Q: Everyone is interested in how the retail industry is evolving and how consumers balance their use of bricks-and-mortar stores vs. e-commerce. How important is crowd-sourcing or other ways of directly incorporating consumer ideas to the popularity of digital retailing?
Mr. Kovacs: Consumer collaboration is the basis of our company. Quirky is the only company in the world driven by ideas from everyday people. That collaboration piece starts from the moment an idea is submitted on our site. It makes for these authentic moments, and authenticity resonates with everyone. People can smell marketing shtick a mile away. People know that our products were invented by other people just like them, and Quirky does a great job telling what those stories are.
Q: You are relaunching the Quirky platform in October. What will be new or different, and what role does the relaunch play in keeping your customers engaged?
Mr. Kovacs: Our goal every day is to make invention accessible. Inventing by yourself is hard. Big pieces of the new platform will be around collaboration: allowing an everyday person to team up with experts who are on the platform and to bounce ideas off peers.
Q: How valuable is data in predicting which Quirky product ideas will be successful?
Mr. Kovacs: It plays a huge role. We are built on speed—we take a product from idea to retail in a short amount of time. The moment an idea is submitted, our community is giving us instant feedback. So right off the bat we get a sense of where an idea is going. The community helps us on everything, from concept to branding, with that real-time feedback. For example, when we need to name a product, we can ask the world what they think and get 10,000 data points in a very short time frame.
Q: Quirky is famous for its "Blackouts": three times a year, sending everyone out of the office for a week's break. How important is disconnecting—at least once in a while—when you are immersed 24/7 in the digital world?
Mr. Kovacs: Huge. It is why Blackouts exist. Our core value is to get s**t done. To do that day in and day out, you have to set aside time to rest, recharge, get inspired—to disconnect and clear your mind.
Q: How do you approach online marketing for new and innovative "Internet of things" products?
Mr. Kovacs: Especially in the digital space, we are thinking about where consumers are thinking about the day-to-day problems they face. For example, working with GE, we created a smart air conditioner called the Aeros. And we delivered ads for the Aeros in real time—through weather alerts on mobile phones—when the temperatures were rising above 75 and people were thinking about how hot it was.
Q: What do you do first thing in the morning?
Mr. Kovacs: The first thing I do at home is to get my son out of bed. Then I go jog. It's the only time all day that I am offline. That's my tech-free 45 minutes of the day.
Q: Where do you find inspiration? Any surprising places?
Mr. Kovacs: Every day I walk into my office and sit down with co-workers who have incredible and aspirational ideas. I find the conversation at the kitchen table at Quirky a source of huge inspiration for things that I did not even think were possible. It's what keeps me going.
About the Sponsor
Today's trendsetters are also today's digital leaders. The Digital Trailblazers Series profiles some of the industry's most visionary digital executives—those pushing the boundaries in digital marketing. For more on this series, including intelligence and insights from Quantcast, visit the Digital Trailblazers Hub.
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