Without a doubt, collaboration is the new black. Some of the market’s most interesting and successful recent initiatives in recent years have arisen from collaboration with customers. For example, Doritos inviting fans to develop its Superbowl advert (this year’s entry won the hotly-contested best Superbowl ad title) or Lays Crisps getting international media coverage as well as thousands of entries for its search for a new chip flavour.
Marketers are seeing co-creation and crowdsourcing as a quick way to harness today’s connected, creative and demanding-to-be-heard customer.
There’s every reason to experiment with this approach, of course – but in most cases it doesn’t go any further than a one-off marketing campaign. The capacity for co-creation to contribute to long-term vision is often lacking, as is the opportunity to collaborate with the customer in a more structured way.
For all the talk about collaboration, only about 3% of all companies have experimented with developing new products and services with their consumers, and fewer than one in 10 companies who co-create with their customers use collaboration to launch new products.
Giving marketing power to the consumer
In most cases, collaboration starts with a pilot project. If the test is successful, the collaboration can gradually be built up in a more structured manner.
Structural collaboration means that the customer is involved in all aspects of your innovation, allowing you to add consumer feeling to the gut feeling. A lot of managers rely on their gut feeling, which is wonderful, but what structured collaboration can bring is ‘consumer feeling’ to it.
By collaborating, managers create the ability to put on the consumers hat and think as the customer. Allowing them to make more consumer-relevant choices.
To become the customer advocate within our companies, marketers will need to connect with consumers in a regular, friendly, informal, and totally non-hierarchical way. We’ll need consumers to care enough to give us a full and frank window into their lives.
The good news is that new social media driven tools are here to help marketers gain consumer insights that give them an irrevocably customer-centric view of the brand experience.
We’ve been working with an approach first developed by the global research consultancy InSites. At its core, this involves gathering brand advocates or market ‘mavens’ (people who know – and who share their knowledge), and building an online relationship with them that extends over a period of weeks or months.
Both InSites’ and our experience is that this structure – the ‘consumer consulting board’ (CCB) – delivers insights that influence current marketing and future brand development strategies.
Consumer consulting boards: ‘gamifying’ research helps consumers open up
In a nutshell, the CCB is a group of consumers, passionate about a brand, category or topic, who are brought together to talk – with you, and with each other – over a period of time, on a range of topics relating to the core category.
Like other MROCs (market research online communities), the relationship is conducted online.
Unlike other MROCs, the new methodology focuses on a smaller group of 50 to 150 people who can interact fully, building a deeper relationship that goes beyond one-way research to connect companies to consumers on an ongoing basis.
Your CCB members also interact (via whatever internet-enabled tool they choose) whenever, wherever they like – this helps them provide insights at times that are most relevant to them and adding an emotional element to research.
The CCB methodology features – such as having participant moderators (in addition to agency-side moderators) for the discussions – democratises and encourages participation.
Furthermore, the process is gamified (ie. structured with visual or game elements), which ensures that CCB participants work harder, and longer, at sharing their thoughts and insights with you.
Why allow your marketing to be hijacked by consumer consulting boards?
Scientists and researchers alike are increasingly aware that we do not always know what we do and why we do it.
So, rather than depending on what consumers’ top-of-mind responses are to a research question either in a survey or a two-hour qualitative session, CCBs give marketers the benefits of insights arising over time from what consumers do as well as what they say in a co-creative and collaborative environment.
For example, in our recent CCB project, ‘Come Dine with Me Australia’, in which we engaged with food mavens every day over a three-week period, we were able to get their feedback on what they were preparing for dinner, each night during the project period.
The experience uncovered some surprising results (some as comments, some even as uploaded photos) about foodie approaches to weekday meals and helped us understand what the evening meal will look like in five years’ time.
We will be presenting the results at the AMSRS conference in Melbourne on 6 September – for now, let’s say that the insights suggest that there is now, and will be, room for a whole new category in the grocery market.
Our colleagues at InSites have used the CCB methodology in more than 250 projects and over 100 in the last 12 months, with the universal finding that customers are outstanding consultants who – if allowed to ‘hijack’ the marketing agenda – can take you in new, exciting and highly-successful directions.
In fact, InSites’ head of research communities, Tom de Ruyck (who will also be presenting a keynote at the AMSRS conference) suggests that companies can use CCBs to give the customer a voice in every product decision that needs to be made.
And above all, it gives you – the marketer – a unique ability to talk with the trend leaders in your market categories, to see the world through their eyes and work out where they and your markets are going next. It’s probably the most exciting thing to happen in market research in the past 20 years – and I am looking forward to talking about it more in the coming months.