Co-creation can open up a brand to the outside world and help it to generate relevant innovations. However, there is scarce empirical evidence as to how managers actually use co-creation to connect with customers and other stakeholders and build enduring innovation-oriented relationships with them. To better understand this, as well as the assumptions of managers and the barriers they encounter in realizing the potential of co-creation, the authors have conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with managers that have led co-creation initiatives for 20 brands. This research finds diverse views of co-creation - from tactical market research tool to strategic collaborative innovation method, and shows that brands can be positioned along a continuum between these two polarities. This article also presents the implications for those that want to seize the potential of co-creation.