I dashed off this comment on a BrandShift post on co-creation, and thought I'd reproduce it here. It merits some additional thought...
Successful brands allow customers to assign their own meaning to a product or service, which gives them a feeling of ownership and self-expression. So for example, it's not really about open-source software, it's an open-source movement where participants have assigned a bigger meaning (power to the people) to a product.
Most examples of co-created products and services (like Lego Factory, Google's API, epinions.com, etc.) are really about facilitating
self-expression. So even in the case of Lego, it doesn't really matter whether a design is
actually implemented: Lego has facilitated
self-expression and peer recognition. iTunes facilitates self-expression. epinions.com
facilitates self-expression. Tivo. eBay. Amazon. Today's recipe for success appears to be:
To serve as a facilitator for people to do, say or experience what they
want. Because the underlying pent-up dissatisfaction in society today is having
too much pre-packaged crap shoved down our throats... whether that's products, media, information, whatever. Witness the revolution of the masses.
We want control.