The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation

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

Since working more closely with customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and delight them, I am impressed that she is taking customer 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.”

Individualisation, 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. 

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 understanding, 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.

 

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 you to share them below.

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

Need help in setting up your first customer co-creation sessions? Then I can help; contact me here: https://c3centricity.com/contact

 

 

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How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent? Continue Reading

Can you (Re) Gain Trust?

Over the last few months we have heard many sc andals based upon the disappointing discovery of unfounded consumer loyalty and trust. Rigged football matches, numerous athletes taking illegal drugs and more recently the horse meat sc andal. Have you ever been faced with a loss of your customers’ trust in business? If so, or you believe that it could happen in the future, then this post is for you.

The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer report, published last month, concluded that there are clear signs of a leadership crisis in both business and government. In fact in many recent sc andals, leaders have not helped the situation when speaking out.

For instance, in the current horsemeat sc andal, several food manufacturers confirmed that their beef products did not contain horse-meat, only to withdraw their statements a few days later. What did they think they were doing? Trust is one of the most important elements of purchase and loyalty; it is difficult to win but so much easier to lose, as many companies have recently realised. In the end it comes down to being truly customer centric. Wouldn’t a customer prefer to hear a “We don’t know but we’re checking” rather than a categorical “No” that is replaced by an equally categorical but rather feeble “Yes” a few days, or even hours later.

As Donald Porter, V.P. at British Airways once said:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”

So why do so many companies have such problems with telling the truth? If you make a mistake, then own up and correct it: your customers will forgive you and forget it. And more importantly, your owning up to the event will confirm their belief that they can trust you in the future. They will continue to buy your products and services with confidence, trusting that they will live up to your promises.

If you pretend that things are OK when they are really not, you are more than likely to get found out eventually. An employee will talk, a government or industry association will run tests and you will be discovered lacking.

With all these sc andals of what one might call dishonesty, touching so many different industries, this seems to be a good time to talk about building, keeping and regaining your customers’ trust. Here is my starter list of five areas to review, but please add your own to the comments below:

#1. Prepare

Have you already identified the worst possible scenarios that could happen to your industry, your business, your br and? Do you know precisely how you would react in each and every case? When an incident happens it is already too late and the damage has started. By identifying upfront what may happen in each possible event, you have sufficient time to identify potential risks before issues reach dangerous levels.

#2. Measure

Another factor of preparedness is to identify and to follow metrics that will provide you with an early warning system. Continue Reading

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. Continue Reading

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.

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Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

Do you ever get frustrated that although everyone in your organisation claims to underst and the importance of placing the customer at the heart of the business, nobody seems to be really “walking the talk” of customer centricity? If so, then this post is for you.

Thanks to Stan Knoops from Unilever, I recently came across a great video produced by their Insight Team. It is part of a series of Unilever consumer connect programs and presents a new way for connecting their R&D people at Unilever Vlaardingen to consumers. It shows how to engage and inspire a complete organisation of R&D with consumer insights and is a highly inspirational film.

This got me thinking about the problems that many- or should I say most? – organisations have to get all employees engaged and interested in better underst anding their customers. To help get them started on this essential road to customer centricity, I came up with these 6 points:

#1. Put customer connection in everyone’s annual objectives

This can be left open, or specified such as watching a certain number of focus groups or in-depth interviews, accompanying a certain number of customers whilst they shop for or use your product or service, or listening – and why not also manning, after training? – your care centres or websites.

#2. Conduct co-creation or co-elaboration sessions

Whilst it is good to get people close to your customers, you can also help the company with the development of new products, services or communications, by inviting your customers to join meetings and planning sessions. This is both fun and exciting for your customers and inspiring for company employees. And don’t forget the positive publicity and word of mouth you additionally get, since the participants will certainly talk about their experience to their friends and colleagues

#3. Work on the front line

If marketing, sales, supply chain or another department is struggling to find a solution or new development idea, put them on the front line, to talk to customers directly. If you have your own retail outlets this can be relatively easy to organise. However, even if you don’t it can still be done, with a little planning.

I remember when I first started working at Philip Morris International, I spent a week on the road with a sales representative. Not only did I see first h and some of the issues he faced in selling in his stock, but also learnt a lot from the retailers with whom we discussed. I also began to underst and consumers’ mentally whether smokers or non-smokers, when we were offering free samples in bars and cafés (not sure this goes on today, as I am speaking about 30+ years ago!) Being on the front line is both an inspiring and humbling experience and I just wish that more organisations gave this training, both to new hires, as well as all employees on a regular basis.

#4. Get out of the office

When I worked for Gillette many years ago, all br and managers had to spend one day every two weeks in the field, watching. Continue Reading

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?
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