MRS Brand Research Conference

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These slides were originally presented at the MRS Brand Research Conference. Face's Saul Parker & Esther Garland use their Mortein co-creation as a vehicle to discuss 5 Myths about co-creation.


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  • Bug spray is a household necessity, particularly in hot countries. It isn’t a category with much consumer engagement
  • Similarities in visuals across Raid, Baygon and Mortein - 2009
  • Perceptions of pests, the problems they cause, and how to relate to them vary dramatically between Australia and India, the two markets we worked in to create a unified positioning and brand footprint
  • Mortein is a market leader, local brand and incumbent in Australia, whilst in India it is still a newcomer in a relatively nascent category
  • Conventional wisdom might well have steered us away from co-creation in this instance – owing to the myths that influence the reach of co-creation. We sought to prove that these preconceptions weren’t fair, to disrupt conventional co-creation stereotypes, and disprove the myths
  • We believe that in the social world, brands are social entities, whose meaning and value is constantly renegotiated in a relationship between brand owners and users, and in a way that no one body can control. As a result we believe that building brands in collaboration between owners, experts and users, is the best way to ensure relevance and a shared sense of purpose
  • Convention says that consumers can’t imagine things outside of their experience, frame of reference, and comfort zone, and as a result it is difficult to achieve breakthrough creativity through co-creation
  • Good old Henry Ford with his Model T, and the now-hackneyed quote “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘A faster horse’.” We think Ford was asking the wrong question, rather than working with an unimaginative audience. Even his boss didn’t believe in his ideas for personal motor vehicles – that boss was Thomas Edison…
  • Consumers are experts in all sorts of issues, and can be expressive, creative, articulate collaborators. It is ‘us and them’ attitudes that perpetuate industry ivory towers and consider consumers as passive recipients of whatever the experts choose to chuck their way…
  • Even amongst those receptive to co-creation, there has long been a dominant opinion that consumers can tell you what they want a thing to do, but not what that thing might mean, that consumers can’t deal in abstract thought and symbolism. We think this is nonsense.
  • At Face we maintain that bottom up is never enough. We never work in isolation with consumers to answer all the questions – rather we engage with agency, client and external experts wherever we can, to foster an environment of collaboration and cross-fertilisation of ideas and perspectives
  • We were interested in perceptions of pests and home-making above all. We sought to uncover the folk narratives that underpinned a sense of home and home-making amongst Australian and Indian housewives, and to understand how Mortein could work with these stories to bring itself closer to its audience. Far from avoiding cultural currents, we sought to dramatise them. We used archetypes, celebrity role playing, and similar projective exercises to try and bring these values to the fore.
  • Our participants knew what they were working towards, but at no stage did we reveal the process to them. Creative tasks were kept discrete and abstract, but laddered up to an iterative and agglomerative whole. By working in the abstract, we avoided the risk of participants jumping to conclusion and to execution, and kept their focus on individual creative tasks.
  • Online community work and face to face workshop tasks were structured around game playing, story telling and creative expression. Rather than focus on problem solving, we kept individual exercises in the realm of creativity and free expression. By structuring the workshop along these lines we were able to mimic a more formal creative process of exploration, ideation, prioritisation and final realisation over the course of two days in each location.
  • Learning from other aspirational brands, and avoiding the conventional category narratives Exposing participants to the issue of category stasis and setting parameters to force them to think differently
  • We explored two discrete positioning territories using multiple teams in each workshop, with different teams working throughout the sessions on one route. This allowed us to really push the creative thinking and projection down different avenues, and gave us a wealth of options and collateral at the end of the process.
  • As always, we worked with a diverse set of individuals, from housewives to global creative directors, across online communities and workshops. Because the brief was about global incorporation but local expression and interpretation, we worked with global and local teams of clients and agency staff, and invited the Indian and Australian client-agency teams to attend one another’s workshops.
  • Our final recommendation was a hybrid solution that united two associated but previously distinct positioning territories. In co-creation we often spend time exploring the grey areas and evolving thoughts and concepts beyond their more rigid routes. Often, in our experience, it is far easier for co-creating consumers to evolve things that experts who are entrenched in the process cannot see beyond. Experts offer a single minded focus, but consumers adopt many perspectives, untainted by rigid objectives, goals and preconceptions.
  • You can make people experts if you give them the right tools and help to shape their thinking and creative processes. Art schools teach creativity – it isn’t some genetic predisposition. We can mimic the process of creative exploration and development, and bring consumer collaborators along on that journey.
  • We specified disruption in this project by setting up rules that forced participants to think differently.
  • It is rarely about reinventing the wheel. Tapping into folk stories and cultural symbolism, and re-appropriating shared values, can be a hugely effective way of building household brands
  • MRS Brand Research Conference

    1. 1. Co-creating a brand positioning in diverse markets<br />Saul Parker and Esther Garland, Face<br />research/MRS conference 09.06.11<br />
    2. 2. Tackling a mundane category to make it exciting and relevant<br />
    3. 3. Disrupting a category where everyone says the same thing…<br />
    4. 4. Across markets with markedly different attitudes to the problem…<br />
    5. 5. With a brand at diverse stages of its evolution<br />
    6. 6. Why not leave it to the experts?<br />
    7. 7. Brands are social entities, and meaning and value are in constant negotiation<br />
    8. 8. The myths of co-creation<br />
    9. 9. Myth 1: co-creation just reflects cultural norms<br />
    10. 10. Myth 2: consumers can’t ‘do’ revolutionary thinking<br />
    11. 11. Myth 3: consumers are not experts<br />
    12. 12. Myth 4: consumers can ‘do’ purpose but not meaning<br />
    13. 13. Myth 5: co-creation sidelines the creative experts<br />
    14. 14. Our approach<br />
    15. 15. Capitalise on folk narrative and symbolism<br />
    16. 16. Keep things non-linear and abstract<br />
    17. 17. Incorporate creative tasks, game playing and story telling<br />
    18. 18. Inspire disruption and be explicit about rule-breaking<br />
    19. 19. Build in divergence<br />
    20. 20. Collaborate with agency and client experts, local and global<br />
    21. 21. What we learnt<br />
    22. 22. Consumers can teach us that things aren’t black and white<br />
    23. 23. Creative thinking can be taught, and learnt<br />
    24. 24. Disruption isn’t difficult if you build it into the process<br />
    25. 25. Brand communication is about story-telling and myth-making<br />
    26. 26. Thanks<br />saul@facegroup.co.uk<br />twitter.com/sorl<br />esther@facegroup.co.uk<br />twitter.com/ethep<br />

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