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The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation

One of my clients, who is following the 50 weekly actions for customer centric excellence described in Winning Customer Centricity, asked me for some further ideas on co-creation.

Since working more closely with customers is the best way to underst and, satisfy and delight them, I am impressed that she is taking co-creation even further. In fact, I realised that this is an area that many of you may be interested in learning more about, so I decided to share what I told her, but first …

What is Co-creation?

The term co-creation has been around for decades. However, it is only in the last ten years or so that we are seeing a growth in co-creation in so many different areas of marketing.

According to Wikipedia co-creation is “a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”

My M&MIndividualisation, which offers higher-priced items with a customer perceived higher-value, has been popular for years. It allows customers to design their own unique products to show off their personality. For instance, customers can personalise their M&M chocolates and design their own Nike running shoes. But these are not strictly co-creation since they are designed by one person for for one person. Co-creation is designed by many for the many. (>>Tweet this<<) 

After the success of such personalised offers, organisations understood that there is value in getting input from customers. They now include them not only in product enhancements, but also in developing their advertising and even in first-stage innovation.

The practice has been further intensified by the internet, which has enabled companies to reach out to customers across the globe, virtually for free. Social media, in particular, is a great source of customer underst anding, as well as for highlighting issues with current offers. This is why co-creation should include social media in some form, as I’ll share further on.

Who to work with?

Winning Customer Centricity BookAs I mention in my book, not all business managers feel comfortable exposing their new ideas and concepts to their customers. If this is the case in your organisation, then you are left with the only option of interviewing employees. This isn’t such a bad thing; after all, they too are customers, but you need to keep in mind their biasses. They probably know more about the br and than the average customer and are also likely to be more positive towards it. However, their passion for the company and its br ands is a valuable asset not to be neglected.

If your management allows you to work with customers, then you will want them to be vetted for different things by the recruitment agency:

  • They shouldn’t work for one of your competitors; nor should their close friends and family members.
  • They shouldn’t work for advertising, media or PR agencies, which could tip off your competitors.
  • They should be creative and curious, but not be one of the infamous “1%ers” (the ultra-creatives) that were popular when co-creation was first used.
  • They should be articulate and be able to describe their thoughts, ideas and problems succinctly.
  • They should be well-informed and knowledgeable, even opinionated if you want to introduce some challenging into the discussions.
  • Depending upon the task you want to share with them, they should be category and / or br and users – or not.

Some suppliers may propose psychographic analysis to hone their selection process. However, this is not essential if you obey the above rules and clearly identify the type of person with whom you would like to work.

Social media again provides a great way to identify and recruit those who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the category. Another source of customers, is from co-creating platforms that copy successful job sites, such as UpWork and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

 

Should you compensate customers?

Most co-creation programs compensate customers, at least some of them, for their time and even their ideas on occasions. I have found that customers are usually so happy to share their thoughts and be heard, that they don’t expect compensation other than the opportunity itself. I have often received requests from participants at the end of a project, asking to continue in the panel or online group, because they enjoyed it so much. Customers love to talk to companies about their products and services, so why not make it possible for them to do so in a safe and private environment?

Compensation is therefore not m andatory, but adding prizes and a competitive element to the discussion can encourage a greater level of participation. I give some examples of br ands that have done this further on.

 

When to involve customers?

There are many reasons you might want to get input from your customers beyond the more common anonymous market research. Here are some of the most often used occasions when you might want to include your customers:

  • Involve your customers in co-creationchoosing their favourite names, flavours or perfumes for a product
  • getting reactions to your marketing plans
  • sharing experiences and problems encountered with your category
  • reviewing product and communications’ concepts
  • watching pre-air advertising and choosing the ending, slogans or other details
  • asking for ideas on how to improve a product or service
  • running a competition to solve an issue the company would like to address
  • voting for their favourite new product or service idea
  • creating new flavour and aroma mixes from original ingredients
  • brainstorming with R&D on new product ideas
  • sharing opinions on promotional concepts or competitions.

 

Examples of co-creation

In Winning Customer Centricity, I mention a few companies who successfully use co-creation, such as Nespresso’s “Le Club” and P&G’s “Connect+Develop”. Since I wrote the book, co-creation has become much more widespread and there are many more great examples. Here are just a few to inspire you to invite your own customers to join your initiatives:

Heineken ideas brewery
Source: Heineken
  1. Heineken: Their crowdsourcing platform, called Heineken Ideas Brewery, launched in 2012, asks the public for suggestions, since they believe that innovative ideas can come from everywhere. The first challenge they set was for sustainable packaging and the best idea, the Heineken-o-Mat, was rewarded with a $10,000 prize.

 

 

Lego Ideas
Source: Lego

2.  Lego launched  Lego Ideas as a platform to enable their customers to create and share their ideas for new sets. Other users then voted and commented on these suggested new sets.

The highest-rated ones were often developed and launched by the Lego Group. The original creator of the idea was compensated with a small percentage of the net sales revenue.

 

3.  British Airways: Airlines make a lot of use of customer panels; after all they know all their passengers’ details, so recruitment is relatively easy. BA uses their FutureLab to elicit comments and reactions to their questions and concepts. 

Their panel is made up of a global community who discuss everything from prices, to seating, competitions to services. BA shares their plans and ideas and gets immediate feedback on what their passengers believe might work and what won’t. And all this within a few hours and mostly for free, apart from a few small monetary prizes for the most active or creative participants each month.

 

Coca-Cola Freestyle machine
Source: Coca-Cola

4.  Coca-Cola is one example of companies using co-creation for input to their innovation process. Their Freestyle machines is a fountain dispenser which offers over a hundred products, giving the customer the opportunity to mix their own flavour combination.

An additional mobile app allows them to then save it so they can get the same mix at any other Freestyle machine. Coca-Cola saves all the mixes in their consumer database, which can then be used to learn more about new flavour ideas and consumer preferences.

 

Purina Dear Kitten
Source: Purina

5. The final example comes from social media, where co-creation of content has become the norm. There are literally thous ands of companies using their customers and fans to share their thoughts, ideas, photos and videos on their websites.

Amongst the best is Nestle Purina who started by allowing pet owners to publish pictures of their animals. This then was followed and enhanced by Purina developing and sharing fun videos including Dear Kitten from their Friskies br and and Puppyhoodfrom Puppy Chow. We all know how popular pet videos are on the web, so it is not surprising that many of them went viral.

Making use of co-created content

Speaking of “virability“, there are recent examples of br ands that invite customer input, combined with a marketing promotion or a specific hashtag campaign. These are important for viralbility on such platforms as Youtube and Instagram which are primary sources for fashion and beauty br ands, because of the importance of image.

Chobani is heaven!
Source: Chobani

One br and that was an early adopter of this and and successfully used customer generated content to both improve image and increase sales is the Greek yoghurt company Chobani. It invited its loyal customers to submit photos and videos praising their yoghurt, which were then used on their website as well as in advertising. They generated a lot of excitement with the billboards in particular, as people love to see themselves in print. 

These are just a few of the best uses of customer co-creation that I remember, but I know there are many more. If you have other examples I would love it if you would share them below.

In conclusion, I hope I have inspired you to try co-creation and to include your customers in more of your internal plans and processes. It is not only fun, it also provides you with fresh thinking  and a deeper underst anding of how your customers’ needs and desires are changing. Makes you wonder why you haven’t done more co-creation before, no?

 

Winning Customer Centricity BookIf you would like to learn more about “Winning Customer Centricity” then I am offering my loyal readers – you! – a free download of the first five chapters. Just go HERE.

The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea  and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “ How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are”  and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

According to the McKinsey article “ Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty.

They are also easier to develop and launch, which means they are less dem anding on resources. Companies which are satisfied with only incremental innovations are unlikely to see significant growth in the long-term. For this reason successful br ands need to do both. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Launch before you’re finished

Many tech companies use this approach, by involving customers as beta testers. In this way, they get their customers help – for free – to improve and mould the final offer. It also allows them to launch more quickly and gain the positive image associations of being first to market.

If you are concerned about confidentiality or competitive speed to respond, then work with customers through co-creation. (>>Tweet this<<) Involve them at every stage of the development process from ideation to launch preparation. If your management are  concerned about the risks of sharing innovative ideas outside the company, involve employees instead, perhaps from other divisions so they are less biassed.

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

Are you sure that your customers see your br and in the same light as you do? Many times I have heard a customer correct an interviewer in a research project, when asked about br ands in a category. “That br and isn’t in that segment, category A” they say; “It’s not a competitor of X, but of Y and Z, the main br ands in category B”. Some examples include dried soups which today compete with sauce mixes, carbonated soft drinks with fruit juices and body gels with shampoos.

Another advantage of underst anding the category in which your customers place your br and is that this can provide you with new ideas for expansion.

Mars ice creamMany confectionary br ands have moved into ice cream and desserts. They have understood that they are being seen as more of a “treat” than merely “just” a chocolate bar. When your customers choose between products from several different categories when deciding what to eat or buy, it is a clear indication that you are not (only) competing in the category you first thought you were. (>>Tweet this<<)

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

  • A short-term mindset where success is dem anded in weeks or months rather than years.
  • Top management instils a fear of failure, so no-one will defend ideas that are unpopular.
  • The innovation process itself is biassed towards current knowledge and skills.
  • A lack of deep customer underst anding.

These five ideas will help you to reinvent your innovation and also make it more customer-centric. After all isn’t that what all best practices should do today, involve the customer? If you have other – better? – ideas, then why not share them below?

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts  and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!

 

 

The Consumer is No Longer Boss. It’s the Customer who’s now the King!

Next Wednesday is National Boss’s Day in the USA and in honour of the occasion Kathleen Brady of Brady & Associates wrote an article for the New York Daily News suggesting ways to please your Boss. Although not the topic of this post, the article incidentally makes great reading for anyone with a Boss (I think that’s all of us!)

It was P&G’s A.G. Lafley who first coined the phrase “The Consumer is Boss” about 12 years ago and since then marketing has been trying to please the consumer. It was also around this time that Consumer Packaged Goods companies then started referring to themselves as being consumer centric.

The Rise of the Customer

The below chart from Google Trends shows the search frequency of “customer” versus “consumer” since around that time. I don’t believe the changes you can see are due to a decreasing interest in consumers but are rather a reflection of the importance that all industries are placing on the people who buy their products and services. Whereas CPG may have started the trend, all industries now underst and the importance of the people that spend their hard earned cash on them. Depending upon the industry you are in, those people might be called consumers, customers or clients and customers has become the name most often used to cover all three.

Google trend of customer & consumer searchesThe Fall of Customer Centricity

Maz Iqbal’s recent post on the CustomerThink website entitled “ The Paradox At The Heart of Customer-Centric Business” challenged the very nature of customer centricity. Whilst his ideas are certainly thought-provoking and perhaps controversial, I do agree that customer centricity alone will not grow a business. However, I personally believe that most organisations have spent most of their existence thinking more about all the other areas of the business and less about the people that actually make their businesses viable, their customers.

The Customer is now the Boss

Whilst this still continues to be the case in many organisations – unfortunately – and taking inspiration from Brady’s article, I thought I would share my own thoughts on what we can do to better please our Customers / Bosses.

#1. Make sure everything we do is ABCD: We shouldn’t be satisfied with our customers’ satisfaction! We need to go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty when trying to please them. We should surprise and delight them whenever we can, responding not only to their articulated needs, but also their unarticulated and even unimagined needs.

Look at Apple who regularly proposes technologies that their customers didn’t even know they needed and which surprisingly quickly become an essential part of their lives. They underst and their customers so well that they even know what they (we) will want in the future.

#2. Underst and what they need to know: According to a recent report by Adobe on what keeps marketers up at night, the number one issue is reaching their customers.

top-concerns-large-adobe-2013 autoimprovedIf we really underst and our customers, we will know how to reach them, where and when they are ready to hear what we have to say. Whereas in the past companies knew their customers were more than likely to listen to or watch their advertising when it was aired, today’s technology enables customers to switch off all but the most relevant messages for them at any given time.

#3. Know how they measure performance: We may feel proud of our latest new product idea or added benefit, but if our customer doesn’t value it, then our efforts will be ignored at best or even rejected if we try to charge extra for them. Perception and reality can be far apart, and customer value can mean charging more or less than we had planned.

If you’d like to read more on setting pricing levels check out the post “HELP! Your customers don’t value you as much as you do!”

#4. Offer solutions: I learnt very early on in my professional career, thanks to a very wise and open-minded Boss (Yes that is indeed you Jean-Michel), to bring solutions not problems; the same goes for our customers. We shouldn’t communicate (only) on rational benefits; we are more likely to resonate when we speak about emotional and relational benefits. We need to show we underst and their pain and offer them a solution; no-one can refuse such an offer.

If you’d like to read more on br and equity check out the post “How to Build Br and Reputation & Consumer Trust and then Track it

 #5. Be Transparent: In just the same way as a Boss needs to share his vision and objectives, we need to listen to our customers to ensure we underst and how they are changing. This doesn’t mean more regular tracking or group discussions, but rather more visits to retail outlets and even customers’ homes to share their daily lives, trials and tribulations with them. That is the best way to really see things from their perspective and to see how our products and services fit into their lives.

#6. Mind our manners: As Lafley said, the Customer is Boss. This means that when a customer complains, we must start from the position that they are right, even if it is just their perception. How many times have you yourself heard customer care personnel trying to defend their organisation in order to prove to you that you are wrong? (As a fresh example, I just today got criticised by a supplier for complaining that my dishwasher still hadn’t been delivered six weeks after it was promised! I was told it was “because it’s school vacation and I have three technicians out”. Sorry that doesn’t explain the previous five weeks’ delay)

Do whatever you can to make your customers who connect with you feel happy they did so; make them feel you truly value their opinion and them taking the time to tell you about their experience.

And please, stop your pre-recorded messages that say “your call is important to us” when you leave the caller waiting for five, ten, twenty or even more minutes – and even worse when the message is repeated at frequent intervals! You have to DO not SAY customer centricity.

#7. Customer feedback is a gift: Every complaint is a free roadmap of how to improve your product or service. How much would you have to pay an external expert or consultant to help you in improving your offers? When a customer complains or suggests improvements, you’re getting this information for free, from people who really care and are not being paid to help you. That is as close to the truth you will ever get; use it.

These are my seven reasons why the Customer is King and how we need to act when we remember it. What others can you think of?

Need help in underst anding and connecting with your own customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Google and Adobe Digital Distress in this post.

5 Tips for Global Project Management

One of my global clients recently called me about a problem her team was having implementing a process change within her organisation. After a long conversation, during which I gave her some tips on global project management, she was happy to continue the work with renewed enthusiasm.

If you are facing a similar challenge at the moment, you should find these five ideas I shared with her, to be of use.

#1. Involve the markets

This particular client works for a leading consumer packaged goods company in their London headquarters. One of the biggest challenges a global organisation can face when introducing process changes, is getting market buy-in, even when centralised.

My suggestion was to invite five to ten market representatives to work on the project team with her. Whilst a face-to-face meeting or two will be needed in the beginning, the project can usually continue with conference calls or webinars once it is under way. I also suggested taking a selection of markets from her different regions and not just the major ones, which always seem to be chosen due to their importance. This will reduce, but perhaps not totally eliminate a “it won’t work in our market” type of reaction which could slow down or even exclude adoption, especially by emerging markets.

#2. Allow for culture

When working in a global or regional environment, we often wrongly assume that everyone is making allowances for cultural differences. For this reason it is vital to double-check underst anding and agreement at every major milestone and before each new step is started. Although there is often an over-simplification of cultural differences made, such as Asians tend to always agree, Germans are not flexible, or Americans are opinionated, it still remains true that people think differently. The advantage of a diverse project team is that it includes people with differing perspectives, so make sure everyone appreciates the diversity, listens and adapts to it as appropriate.

#3. Involve different departments

I am amazed at just how many projects can be running simultaneously in large organisations. Whilst this should not be surprising with today’s dem and for rapid change and continuous innovation, I am always disappointed that in most cases, only the members of the department working on the project are aware of it. This may appear normal until one realises that most projects have impact beyond just departmental borders and sometimes can in fact actually be redundant. Let me give you an example.

I was once developing a proposal for a customer information integration programme and I discovered that there were four separate projects that were already running on similar areas to my project. And none of the departments were aware of the others’ projects! R&D was developing a st andard customer complaint classification; finance was harmonising category and br and definitions; market research was developing a tool for analysing customer call content and customer services were updating their platform.

I am sure you can see the value there would be in the departments collaborating together in order to avoid duplication of effort. Luckily, I was able to integrate and prioritise all five projects, making each department responsible for their specific part of the whole development. Everyone felt good about it because they saw the implications of the integration, and realised that the impact of the combined project would be greater than that of each separate plan alone.

#4. Think forward

Even when different departments are collaborating, there can still be an issue with taking the bigger picture. This is particularly important when planning for future expansion. I have witnessed several projects fall short of their potential, by not considering the future needs as well as todays. Are all areas going to exp and? Will customers have different needs? Will the company have different needs, different partners, or different categories and br ands? All of these can impact a project’s system and platform in the long-term and need to be considered before anything is developed.

#5. Over-communicate

Especially when the project team is spread across the world, it is vital to keep everyone informed about progress. In addition to the conference calls and webinars mentioned above, status reports with input from all areas on a regular basis will ensure that everyone underst ands how their part builds into the whole. It also shows that they are responsible for the success of the total project, as they will see the impact of delays or changes they initiate.

These are just five of the tips that I shared with my client and I am looking forward to hearing from her soon, that the project is now back on track and advancing successfully.

What other tips would you have given her? Please add a comment below.

If you are looking to improve your own global project management and knowledge sharing processes, please contact us for an informal chat. No Obligation, just Inspiration!

For more ideas on process development, knowledge sharing and many other topics on customer centricity, why not sign up for our weekly email and monthly newsletter? Just complete the form on the right of our homepage: https://www.c3centricity.com/ 

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

 

The 10 Laws of New Marketing

Earlier this week, I gave a short presentation to a group of top marketing and communications experts on the topic of new marketing. If you want to know what I shared about the new customer and what it will change for marketing, then read on.

The meeting was the second part of a series of talks on building great br ands and most of the presentations were from creative agencies and global br and builders. I had perhaps the less enviable task of speaking about the new dem ands on us all as marketing and communications experts, and the things we are going to have to consider because of the new environment in which we work.

Following the very lively discussion after my presentation, I realised that we could all do with revising the unspoken laws of marketing and communications to meet the desires of these new customers, so here are my ideas, with apologies to any resemblance to the original decalogue:

 

#1. You must not have any other customer but me

Customers want to be treated as individuals and although we marketers may be segmenting and communicating to target groups, we should always treat customerson a one-on-one, personalised basis whenever we can.

 

#2. You must not take yourself seriously

Sometimes we get so tied up in what we are doing and our perceived importance of it, that we forget that our communications are just one of a very large number that our customers will see in a day. How many? Well guestimates range from 250 to 20,000, but who knows? What is more important to underst and is that it is their resonance and emotional link to our customers that matters, not how much we like them.

 

#3. Do not misuse the name of your br and

Our br and means something to our customers and it is essential to underst and what that is; what personality it has and how it fits into our customers lives. Their loyalty builds an intimacy with br ands that they will protect ferociously if we try to make (too many) unwelcome changes. As examples take the infamous failed launch of New Coke, or Cailler’s experience when trying to revamp their packaging.

 

#4. Remember to never observe a day of rest

Our customers expect to be able to connect with us on their terms. This means whenever, wherever availability, with the exact information and answers they need at that particular time. Don’t miss the opportunities given to you by your customers to communicate, by doing it in the wrong way, place or time, or even worse, not being available at all.

 

#5. Honour your parent br and

Many br ands in your portfolio are part of a family of products; some may even stretch across categories. Ensure that your br and messages, tone and content are coherent and complimentary. If you are using your company name in addition, remember that it’s image will also have an additional role in image building.

 

#6. You must not kill great ideas

Some of the best ideas for new products, services and communications come from customers. Instead of killing some of their ideas without a second thought, try to underst and not what they say, but what they mean by it. As an example take the well-known quote from Henri Ford “”If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Underst anding what your customers desire, even dream for, means underst anding the reason behind their requests, rather than the content itself.

 

#7. You must not be disloyal

Your customers vote for you with their wallets and in fact pay your wages every day. They deserve your respect and you must do whatever you can to surprise and delight them. Never fall short of giving excellent service. The extra mile is shorter than you think, but pays h andsomely.

 

#8. You must not steal

Your customers don’t expect you to offer exactly the same as your competition, so there is nothing to be gained by copying (stealing) their ideas. Be unique and st and for your values; you may not resonate with everyone, but your own customers will feel a much stronger link, because you will be satisfying them precisely.

 

#9. You must not testify falsely against your competitors

Following on from the previous law, don’t bother to compare your competitor to you unfairly. Customers are wary of false claims and are capable of making their own comparison, if you provide all the relevant information to them. In fact the result of the comparison will be all the stronger because they themselves have done it.

 

# 10. You must not crave your competitors’ properties

In every market there is room for good competition, so concentrate on what your product or service can do for your customers.  Don’t crave for what you can’t have or what you can’t be. Be the best you can and if that is still not enough, find a new way to better satisfy your customers, by going back to listening to and watching them. Knowledge and underst anding can provide the answers if you are willing to integrate and dig deep.

If you follow these rules, then you will be prepared for the new marketing challenge and be in a significantly better position than all of your competitors, to satisfy and delight your customers.

Have I forgotten an essential ingredient of today’s marketing and communicating challenge? Then please let me know below.

For more information on underst anding and communicating with the new customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

Successful Innovation comes from answering Desires not Needs

What is the difference between a need and a desire? Emotion, that’s what. A need is something for which someone has a necessity; a desire is something they want or crave, whether they know it or not.

There are the three main types of products or services that companies offer; it is important that you underst and the difference between them as well as what you are offering or planning to innovate, if you are to be successful.

Some organisations speak about articulated, unarticulated and unimagined needs, but they miss the power of emotions if they are considering all three as simply needs to be addressed. Unless there is an emotional connection between what you are selling and what your customer perceives he is buying, you are likely to remain at the level of a commodity, or at best are restricted in the price you can charge. Only emotional connection brings passion into the equation, when customers desire or crave your product or service and are willing to pay (almost) anything to have it.

Examples of Great Emotional Connection

Think about Apple as a great example of a company that brings passion into their products, so that potential customers pre-order or spend the night queuing in front of the shop in order to have the privilege to give Apple their money in exchange for the latest gadget.

Now I love Apple as much as most people, but are their products really worth more than their competitors? Was the iPod really that much better for listening to music on the go? Probably not, but it is their customers’ desire to be a part of the Apple “family” that makes them crave their products.

Another example is Marlboro cigarettes. Do they really taste better than other br ands? Maybe, but it is not the taste (alone) that makes smokers remain loyal to the br and; rather a feeling of community and adherence to a desired image.

And speaking of taste, what about colas? The now famous brain imaging study run by Baylor College of Medicine – you can read more about it here – showed that consumers thought Pepsi tasted better that Coke, but there was something very different happening in the brain when consumers thought they were drinking Coke or Pepsi. It was what the consumers were thinking that made the difference, a result of br anding.

So what can you do to make your customers think differently about your br and, so that they remain loyal to it, desire it and even crave your product or service? Bring in and stimulate their emotions; here are four ideas on how this can be done:

#1. Make them feel special, different, privileged

This can be achieved through:

  • higher prices – many premium and luxury products are priced more on image than on cost and their customers are happy to pay more for the associated image that has been created
  • membership to a br and club with special privileges – Nespresso is a great example of this; their clients get to order online and even get asked their opinion or to choose new flavours
  • personalised offers – unlike clubs, these are offered to a wider group of purchasers (on a mailing list for example) but the wording of communication and the offers proposed are personalised to each target group, so they are perceived as more personal

#2. Stimulate more of your customers’ senses

So that competitive products are disappointing in comparison. As Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown, mentioned in his blog post Sensory br anding and sensible questions, “The research conducted for BRANDSense confirms that memories of the sensory br and experience do have an important role to play in encouraging br and loyalty. The stronger, more positive and differentiating, people’s sensory memories are of a br and, the more likely they will be to consider it for repeat purchase”. For example:

  • add sound and texture to a food through a hard coating, as many ice-creams offer today
  • provide extra sensations in the mouth through additional ingredients; c andy and chewing-gum often offer these as new sensations
  • surprise through special perfumes for household products; remember the popularity of “green apple” a few years back?
  • astonish with unusual colours for personal care products; have you tried the range of Pantene colours, the shampoo I mean!
  • amaze through special textures of creams or clothing; luxury face products are often claimed to have a richer, creamier or more “melting” texture.

#3. Involve your customers in the innovation process

Even if your customers don’t always know or can’t express what they want, they are usually much clearer about what they don’t want. Listen to them describe their experiences with your product or service category and the pain-points they have. What do they like, dislike; what would they change? And more widely, what do they think about the category, their situation when needing or using your product or service, what feelings they have using ir?

By getting them involved from the start, you are much more likely to satisfy their rational needs and emotional desires, AND you will encourage discussion as they share their experiences with their friends, family and perhaps even wider on the web.

#4. Build excitement through communications

Many products and services are launched with a “teaser” campaign that sets and builds customers’ expectations for weeks, if not months before launch. This certainly can make your target audience excited with anticipation, but the new product must deliver on its promises.

Remember the launch of the completely redesigned BMW Series 5 in Europe about 10 years ago, which had to be quickly replaced with the older design when current owners rejected the modernisation? Or what about the more recent launch of the BMW 5 Series GT in the US, which had 5 Series Touring customers running to rival Mercedes-Benz and many current Series 7 owners downgrading to the cheaper car? As with any product or service, you must deliver what is promised and this becomes doubly important if you fire your future customers with excitement for the new launch.

These are just four ways in which you can bring more emotion into your innovations; I know there are many more, so why not share your own experiences here? We would love to hear how you have brought more emotion into your products and services.

For more on Innovation, please check out our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

If you are struggling to bring emotion into your products or communications, please contact us, we can certainly help support you through advice or a 1-Day Catalyst session. NO obligation, just a great OPPORTUNITY!

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STOP Emotional Innovation!

Last week, I posted about making innovations more emotional; if you didn’t see it, you can find it here. Today, I want to speak about the other side of emotional innovation; how to STOP some of your own emotions, when launching new products.

One Sunday last Summer I had been planning a lie-in, like most of us do when we don’t have to get up for work at the weekends. However, I was woken up very early by one of my cats who came to proudly show me that she had caught a bat! 

Both my cats love hunting and I have to say they are (too) good at it! They give me frequent “presents” that I discretely dispose of, unless of course they are alive, in which case I have to catch them and return them to the wild outdoors, whilst the two of them continue to sniff around the last place in which they had seen their prey.

Anyway, my cat Apricot – a female ginger – was really excited about her very rare capture, which is why she had woken me up to show me. Of course, I was less than enthusiastic about a bat flying around my bedroom at five in the morning! Luckily when I switched on my bedside lamp, the light quietened it down and when he stopped flying, to hang on the wall, I was able to catch him and put him back outside where be belonged.

 

Do your innovations excite you or your customer?

Now awake, my mind started musing on the very large differences in the reactions of my cat and me, to this event. She was excited, happy and proud; I was surprised, disappointed and irritated that I had to stop what I was doing – sleeping – to attend to her “present”.

I think something similar happens sometimes when companies launch new products or services. Everyone in the organisation gets excited about their innovation or renovation, are proud to have developed it and happy that after all the hard word, it is finally ready for launch. The customer on the other h and, can be surprised, which is great if this is accompanied by pleasure, or disappointed if the promise is not delivered. However, he might also be irritated if his usual br and or version has been replaced and is no longer available, or at least no longer on the shelf or store in which he usually finds it. We are in fact asking him to work, to change his habits, which no human being really enjoys, even when it is for the better.

 

5 Questions for winning innovations

So how can you make your new product development more customer-centric? By starting from your target customers’ perspective, and by answering these five questions:

  1. How are your customers currently using your product or service? What are their pain points if any; price, packaging, size, availability, sensorial experience – taste, aroma, colour, sound, feel?
  2. Who is currently changing or has already changed their habits to compensate for these pain points? Your current regular users, occasional users, lapsed users, competitive br and users?
  3. What are your current customers doing to face their pain points? Are they only buying on promotion, buying several small packs at a time, buying a replacement br and, buying elsewhere, adding their own ingredients?
  4. Where would they rank each of the identified pain points in terms of priority and acceptability? Can they cope with buying less often to get it at a cheaper price? Do they have a “portfolio” of acceptable br ands from which to choose in the category? Do they transfer your product into another container for ease of serving?
  5. When do the pain points become so unacceptable that your customers would consider changing br ands or adapting their behaviour? Are there psychological price barriers in the category or for your br and? Are there category st andards of colour, size or packaging that need to be obeyed – or perhaps even broken?

Obviously best-in-class innovation and renovation starts with the target customer in mind; their rational needs AND emotional desires.

Based on the answers to these five questions, the most relevant products and services can be proposed and are then more likely to be met with positive excitement, pride and happiness, rather than negative surprise, disapointment, irritation and frustration.

 

Involve your customers in your innovation

A further idea about customer-centric innovation is to actually involve your customers along the whole process. Many organisations now run what are called “co-creation” or “co-elaboration” sessions, where ideas are shared with and then further developed with customers in live sessions, either in person or over the web. How about co-creating your next new product idea with your customers? That way you know it will delight them even before you launch.

Do you have any other points you would add to the above list? Have you had success in co-creating a product or new service recently? Please share your experiences, I would love to hear about them.

This post first appeared on April 28th 2011 in C3Centricity Comments

More information on improving your innovation and conducting co-creation sessions can be found here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

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