Exploring the World of Water - Danone R&D Case Study

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  • 1. What to expect The world is in constant evolution… Consumer behaviour is evolving rapidly… But are our methods, techniques, research design and skills evolving accordingly? Danone wanted to understand the use of water in daily life and highlight consumer expectations for water consumption in general, in order to determine the main consumer perceived benefits. It was important to focus on the scientific objectives (also afterwards in clinical testing) to prove and understand 4 certain effects of water. The final output Danone was looking for needed to confirm that water can bring real benefits for consumers and to show which benefits would be most impactful in the market when proven. In order to investigate water consumption from different angles, we implemented a ‘fusion research’ design. Fusion research is a research design where multiple (contemporary) research methodologies are combined in order to study a certain research question from different angles. By applying triangulation, a holistic view is achieved around the same solution or marketing problem. Each of the selected methods adds one piece to the final puzzle and serves as input for the subsequent phase.
  • 2. Contemporary consumers ask for contemporary research methods
  • 3. Response rates in traditional research projects are in decline, as is the good image of our work among research participants. As an answer to this negative trend, the market research industry wishes to move from ‘transactional’ to more ‘relational’ types of research. Researchers need to (re)bond companies with consumers (our participants) through more ‘connected’ research methodologies (Schillewaert, De Ruyck and Verhaeghe, 2008). Additionally, we may state that the context in which consumers live has changed drastically during the last decade. It has affected their behaviour accordingly (Van Belleghem, 2010). The contemporary consumer is: Empowered: Today’s consumers are more eager to share their opinion (even if not asked for it) and make or break brands and products on a scale never seen before. They also choose their own tools and moments to do so. Consumers’ online and offline lives are blending, they use different multi-media interchangeably (cf. life caching), are always on the go and create their very own ‘cocktail’ of attitudes. That’s why they have become more difficult to grasp! Cosmopolitan:
  • 4. Taking into account this new reality, we are convinced that the way we do research, in terms of skills, research methods and techniques, needs to be adapted. As Kim Dedeker stated during the 2008 edition of the ARF Leadership Forum: “My call to action is that we would figure out the way to return to the consumer’s backyard. We have to rebuild that trust. We need to listen to them on their time and in the ways they want to communicate with us.” Co-creator: Emotional: Today, consumers want to interact with marketing professionals. More than half the Europeans want to co-create products/services with companies. For far too long, emotions and social behaviour were concealed behind closed doors and ignored in favour of rationality and efficiency (Hill, 2009). Today we are more aware of this and tapping into these dynamics has become ‘easier’ through new media (e.g. social networks and communities) and research technologies (e.g. text analytics and implicit measurement tools).
  • 5. We summarised our vision on the future in our ’10 commandments of contemporary market research’: 1 Conversations and stories of consumers should be at the heart of our marketing and research thinking as they are key in generating insights; it is the main way innovations, customer experiences and marketing campaigns are being spread (Van Belleghem, 2010). 2 3 4 Researchers need to create more opportunities for participants to say what is on their minds, even if it is not directly part of the survey or topic guide. Research should give participants a more active role throughout the entire research process and not only during the interviewing phase. They like it and it will deliver richer and better insights. Research methodologies should be adapted so they are able to grasp fragmented consumer behaviour (both over time as on the go).
  • 6. 5 Methods should be combined to fusion designs in order to capture the whole picture and create a 360° view on the consumer (Blades, 2009). 6 7 8 We should unveil the goals of a research project and clients should show their ‘face’ more to research participants. Researchers should feed back intermediate results to research participants so they can influence the final outcome of the study if desired. Next to that it will motivate them to keep participating. Participants should not be asked to provide us with new information if we can obtain the same information indirectly. We should therefore recycle our data if possible. Tons of data is available on the web or in customer databases (Verhaeghe, Schillewaert, Van den Berge, 2009).
  • 7. 9 We should stimulate a good rapport and trust between participants and researchers, next to bonding among peers in order to obtain higher quality data and more emotional insights. 10 Contemporary market researchers need DJ skills. They are responsible for keeping research participants enthusiastic. They need to have the ability to choose the right methods and data sources and to throw them in the right mix. Last but not least, they need to perform well in the boardroom by playing the most relevant tunes to management. This way of designing and conducting a research project will be illustrated by a multi-stage research project we conducted for and with Danone Global R&D (Paris): ‘Water World’. In the second part of this paper, we will elaborate on the way this has an impact on the relationship with the client, the research team and the skills they need.
  • 8. Water world: going on a three-month journey with participants!
  • 9. Danone wanted to understand the use of water in daily life and highlight consumer expectations for water consumption in general, in order to determine the main consumer perceived benefits. It was important to focus on the scientific objectives (also afterwards in clinical testing) to prove and understand 4 certain effects of water. The final output Danone was looking for needed to confirm that water can bring real benefits for consumers and to show which benefits would be most impactful in the market when proven. In order to investigate water consumption from different angles, we implemented a ‘fusion research’ design. Fusion research is a research design where multiple (contemporary) research methodologies are combined in order to study a certain research question from different angles. By applying triangulation, a holistic view is achieved around the same solution or marketing problem. Each of the selected methods adds one piece to the final puzzle and serves as input for the subsequent phase.
  • 10. When studying the research objective of Danone, it was clear that there was a real need for this ‘fusion’ approach. 1 Not only did we want to find out how often people drank water; we also hoped to investigate why they did so and what effects they believed the water had on their body and mind. The goals of the research required both quantitative numbers (‘surveying’) and a qualitative deep dive (‘discussions’). 2 The topic of the study was a commodity: water. Drinking water is an activity which most consumers engage in without a lot of cognitive effort. People drink water all day long and since it is so habitual, it is often difficult for consumers to recall situations and explain their behaviour post hoc. As a result, we also had to implement an ‘observational’component in our research design. 3 The ultimate goal of the project was to find strong claims for communication that could be tested by the Danone R&D centre. These claims could increase the consumption of water per individual. There was a strong need to go beyond the obvious by detecting new and more latent reasons for drinking water. In order to find a variety of benefits, we thought it would be interesting to study heavy water consumers in particular. However, at the same time, we had to select the most powerful claims that were also applicable for a larger target group. So we had to include light drinkers too and bring them together on a social platform.
  • 11. Taking all conditions into account, we choose to set up a design (see Figure 1 - Research design overview) which contains a user-generated brainstorm (Verhaeghe, De Ruyck and Schillewaert, 2008), a quantitative diary, multimedia ethnography (Verhaeghe, Van den Bergh and Colin, 2008) and a research community (De Ruyck, Schillewaert and Caudron, 2008). It is clear that we were starting a really long research journey. In order to make it a successful one, it was critical to take into account the ‘commandments of contemporary market research’ described in paragraph one. Figure 1 - Research design overview
  • 12. Exploring new territory As researchers, we often assume that we are perfectly capable to translate the research goals into a topic guide or questionnaire. In search for understanding the consumers’ minds, it might however be worth to take one step back and to ask them what they think we should be asking in the study. This consumer involvement does not only indicate potential blind spots in our own thinking, it is also an interesting way to detect consumer vocabulary for the research topic. So, we started our exploration of the water universe with a ‘user-created brainstorm’ (n= 300). This research tool enables consumers to generate general reasons for - and beliefs about - drinking water at certain moments in time. Two steps take place: first the participant is invited to write down his own reasons and beliefs. Secondly, the answers from other participants to the same brainstorm are displayed and people get the chance to select their favourites amongst those answers As a result, the list of reasons and beliefs gradually grows and the best answers are voted to the surface. The user-created brainstorm plays both on the co- creation expectance and on the power of the contemporary consumer. By involving participants in this phase, they have the chance to influence the rest of the project both in terms of questions and in research design (Verhaeghe, De Ruyck and Schillewaert, 2008) and they are therefore helping to shape the set-up of the research. Moreover, they are doing the exercise in group, giving them the ability to decide with one another whether certain answers are more valuable than others.
  • 13. Getting our numbers right Phase 2: quantitative survey (diary approach) and screening for the qualitative phase. The objective of this second part of the project (n=1039) was to identify the right profiles to participate in the observational and qualitative phases: heavy and light water drinkers. Next, to a first validation and prioritisation of the reasons for drinking water, generated during phase 1. The quantitative questionnaire asked for reasons for drinking water and attitudes towards health issues. The data resulted in a user segmentation. Additionally, we had a three-day ‘fluid diary’ on plain water consumption to determine who fitted our target profile for phases 3 and 4. The researcher personally invited the participants to take part in the survey and he unveiled the research subject partly in the invite e-mail. Secondly, we fed back answers to the open- ended questions on a daily basis to the participants, in order to keep them engaged during the three-day diary research (see Figure 2). Figure 2 - Feedback visualised in a word cloud
  • 14. Revealing the unknown Consumers are poor witnesses of their own behaviour. Especially when talking about drinking water, it seemed particularly difficult for consumers to recall or even remember their own motives for drinking it. We believed that we could only accurately capture the related physical and mental experiences through observational research. In order to obtain a rich set of benefits, we only involved heavy water consumers (n=22) in this section. The commandments were applied by choosing multimedia ethnography. Multimedia ethnography is a type of observational research where research participants are asked to observe their own behaviour and environment by taking pictures or making videos. They feed back the observations to us on an ethnographic blog (see Figure 3) where they can interpret their own images, provide full descriptions of the situation and answer additional questions of the researcher. The process consists of four different phases: Figure 3 - Screenshots of our ethnographic blog
  • 15. 1 In a first step, participants were invited to a kick-off discussion group online, where we explained to them how the observation would take place and what the goal of the project was. 2 Next, we had the actual observation. Participants were asked to take pictures every time they drank something and to report about it on their personal blog. The picture itself could be tagged with smileys to refer to important elements. Respondents were stimulated to describe the moment and context of the picture in as much detail as possible. In order to identify the different markers, we also provided the opportunity to indicate on a picture of a human body where they actually experienced the effect of the water in their own body. Since we recruited only heavy water drinkers, we knew that a lot of the pictures we would obtain would depict water consumption. Studying the consumption of other drinks at the same time provided us with insights on benefits water was not able to claim.
  • 16. 3 In the third phase of the process, the respondents were invited to decrease their consumption level of water for a limited period of time. The rationale behind this so-called deprivation exercise is that it might be easier to become aware of certain drivers if you’re missing out for a few days. 4 In the final phase, all observational data was analysed with the aid of text analytics and concept boards of the different benefits were created. The concept boards were presented during auto-driving sessions. Auto-driving sessions are online discussion groups were the same participants get the chance to give feedback on the conclusions that the researcher made, based on the analysis of all the pictures. We checked if all benefits were recognisable and there was time for additional probing. Additional questions about each benefit were answered by the participants in order to enrich the final concept boards.
  • 17. Multimedia ethnography fully respects the characteristics of the contemporary research participant: Empowered: We gave power to the research participants by letting them do the observation themselves. Unlike in traditional ethnography, participants are free to report whatever fitted the task - where the data collection is always coloured by the vision and interpretation of the researchers. Some research participants, for example, sent us mainly detailed close-up pictures of the quantity or types of water they were drinking, whereas others stressed the habitual aspects of their consumption. Cosmopolitan: The observation phase lasted for two weeks. This allowed us to capture a long-term picture of their behaviour. It is possible to capture water consumption not only during moments that we would also encounter during an in-home visit. We obtained pictures from people spread across the whole day at a varied set of locations (see Figure 4). Figure 4 - Examples of user-generated observations
  • 18. Emotional: A typical problem with traditional ethnography is the hawthorn effect. The presence of the researcher at the place of observation enhances the risk of the research participant to adapt their behaviour. Typically, more rationalised and socially desirable behaviour is manifested. In multimedia ethnography, the researcher is not physically present. All communication happens via the online blog, which minimises the influence on the natural context. As the observation lasts 14 days, there is sufficient time to create a rapport between researcher and participant. Already in the kick-off discussion groups online, they are introduced to each other and both participant and researcher share personal information. During the field period, several personal messages from the researcher are also sent, to stimulate the bonding. As a result, we see the emotionality and richness of the answers changing over time. Initially participants were stressing the functional benefits of water, such as taking away rests of the meal or being good for one’s digestion process. Towards the end, more emotional benefits were also shared, such as reducing stress or regulating one’s mood. Co-creator: Throughout the auto-driving sessions, the participants were involved in the project as real consultants. They were the ultimate judge of the validity of the results. As such they had the power to adapt or modify the final report from the ethnography part, if required.
  • 19. Making decisions and co-creating an action plan in a community research Objectives of this final stage were to challenge and refine results from the exploratory phase and the ethnography part. We needed to identify arguments for convincing light users of waters. It also helped us to put all the results from the previous research phases into the right context. The community ran for 6 weeks, with both heavy and light users (n=50) who did not take part in the ethnography phase. Two additional online discussion groups with heavy drinkers (n=12) were held to go in-depth on certain topics. Again, the research community enabled us to adequately deal with the contemporary research participant: 1 Group bonding through kick-off discussion groups with the participants and some specific exercises (e.g. writing a story together) and the strong relationship with the moderator kept the participants going for six weeks. 2 Listening to the conversations that took place on the platform was as important as asking questions. Social dynamics taking place on the platform were taken into account, adding a more social view on the research subject. The very first confrontation especially between light and heavy water users in the project was very rich. The heavy users needed to find arguments to convince the light users to start drinking more water. This task helped us a lot in the prioritisation of benefits when it came to relevance and specific reasons to believe.
  • 20. 3 We gave feedback at several occasions: all participants got insights into their personal drinking profile benchmarked with those of their peers through a small tool that we provided them with. We introduced ‘Doctor Daniel’ who brought findings from the study to the group, speaking in name of the R&D department of the company behind the study. He also asked follow-up questions during a last activation exercise (light users drinking more) and deprivation (heavy users drinking less), which was very important in getting more details on the benefits and scientific hypotheses. 4 Members of the community had the chance to make final judgments and interpretations on the outcome of the study: what are the most impactful claims/benefits of water and why? This made them co-creators of the final outcomes of the project.
  • 21. Fusion research: how to make it work?
  • 22. A three-month project in which different research methods are fused and where results need to flow into the next phase is very demanding for all parties involved: the client, our team of researchers and the participants. How did we make it work? Participants: They were involved in almost everything we did and we motivated them through small gifts and especially a lot of feedback. We engaged with them over a very long period of time, something that is opposite to the trend of asking less and less from our research participants. We believe that it is not what and how much you ask from them that counts, but rather the specific way in which you ask it and what you give them in return! Additionally, the participants had a direct line with the researcher to ask for help if required. Client: We started with a half day kick-off workshop at the client side to build internal engagement for the project and to get input from all stakeholders involved. In between the phases an interactive workshop took place with the clients. Goal: bringing the voice of the consumer into the boardroom after every phase and giving direction to the next stage based on the intermediate results. Team of researchers: We noticed that two things were very important: 1) having the people with the right skills on the right method (e.g. observing and analysing pictures is totally different from managing a large group of people over a longer period of time in a research community); and 2) having a lot of team debriefs at the end of every stage. It is really important that the community moderator also knows everything about the very first phase of the project, in order to do the job properly.
  • 23. What did fusion research bring to the table for Danone?
  • 24. The goal of the study was to identify physiological & mental markers related to the water consumption of heavy water drinkers. In total we defined 20 clusters of benefits that lead to over 60 hypotheses to be tested in further scientific research. We succeed in our mission! For Danone there were three main success criteria for this research approach in which a whole set of contemporary research methods and techniques were fused: 1 Process in several stages: Organising the test in several steps is very pertinent. It allows to precise questions, to progress in the analysis. Especially with a broad topic like this, that was a very important one. Additionally it allowed Danone to bring consumer selection into the scientific research process: determining which benefits are and will be most impactful according to the consumers themselves. 2 Authenticity and accuracy: It was key to base conclusions on real consumption (from the diary), real situations (from the ethnography part) and real conversations leading to final insights (from the research community). This was important because our research served as input for further scientific research that requires very detailed input. 3 Use of words, images, social and individual techniques: The possibility to explain the benefit with several means as a research participant also added to the success of the project. Looking at the same subject from different points of view (via observing and via interviewing, in isolation and through social research methods) added a lot of richness to the final concept boards and hypotheses.
  • 25. Blades F. and Brown R. (2009), More, more, more!, ESOMAR Congress 2009: Leading the way (Montreux) De Ruyck, Schillewaert, Caudron (2008), Together we build the future, ESOMAR Qualitative 2008 Hill D. (2009), Emotionomics, Kogan Page, UK Schillewaert N., De Ruyck T. and Verhaeghe A. (2008), Connected Research: towards common understanding about how market research can make the most out of ‘Web 2.0’, International Journal of Market Research Van Belleghem S. (2010), The Conversation Manager, Lannoo, Belgium Verhaeghe, De Ruyck, Schillewaert, 2008, Applying 'User Generated Content' to quantitative research, International Journal of Market Research Verhaeghe, Schillewaert, Van den Berge (2009), Getting answers without asking question, ESOMAR Online 2009 Verhaeghe, Van den Bergh, Colin (2008), Me, myself and I, ESOMAR Qualitative 2008.
  • 26. Annelies Verhaeghe Head of Innovation InSites Consulting Tom De Ruyck Head of Consumer Consulting Boards InSites Consulting Michel Rogeaux Expert Consumer Science Danone Global R&D France
  • 27. www.insites-consulting.com Thank you! @InSites marketing@insites-consulting.com www.facebook.com/insitesconsulting www.slideshare.net/InSitesConsulting