User Generated Brands and their Contribution to the Diffusion of User Innovations

37 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011 Last revised: 24 Dec 2014

Johann Füller

University of Innsbruck - School of Management

Roland Schroll

University of Innsbruck - School of Management

Eric A. von Hippel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: October 7, 2012

Abstract

It has been argued that users can create innovations and also diffuse them peer-to-peer independent of support or involvement by producers: that “user-only” innovation systems can exist. It is known that users can be incented to innovate via benefits from in-house use. But users’ incentives to invest in diffusion are much less clear: benefits that others might obtain from their innovation can be largely or entirely an externality for user innovators.

Of course, effective distribution of information products can be done near-costlessly via posting downloadable content – for example, software – on the Internet. However, potential adopters must still learn about the product and trust its qualities. In producer systems, this aspect of diffusion is heavily supported via the creation of trusted brands. It has been shown that brands help to increase awareness, to communicate a product’s benefits, and to reduce perceived risks of adoption.

The development of brands by producers is traditionally seen as a very costly exercise – unlikely to be thought of as worthwhile by users who expect little or no benefits from the diffusion of their innovations to others. In this paper, we explore the creation of a strong and trusted brand by the Apache software community – and find it was created costlessly, as a side effect of normal community functioning. We think the costless creation of strong brands is an option that is generally available to user innovation communities. It supports, we propose, the existence of robust, user-only innovation systems by helping to solve the problem of low-cost diffusion of trusted user-developed innovations.

Keywords: user-generated brands, community, brand value

Suggested Citation

Füller, Johann and Schroll, Roland and von Hippel, Eric A., User Generated Brands and their Contribution to the Diffusion of User Innovations (October 7, 2012). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4877-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1756941 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1756941

Johann Füller

University of Innsbruck - School of Management ( email )

Universitaetsstrasse 15
Innsbruck, 6020
Austria
+43 512 507 7201 (Phone)
+43 512 507 2842 (Fax)

Roland Schroll

University of Innsbruck - School of Management ( email )

Universitaetsstrasse 15
Innsbruck, Tirol 6020
Austria
+43 512 507 7211 (Phone)

Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E62-455
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

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