forward thinking seriesENGAGE, INSPIRE, ACTTHREE STEP STONES TOWARDS DEVELOPING MOREIMPACTFUL PRODUCTSTom De Ruyck · Stan Knoops · Niels Schillewaert · Gita Coenen · Soraia Rodrigues
2ENGAGE, INSPIRE, ACTTHREE STEP STONES TOWARDS DEVELOPING MORE IMPACTFUL PRODUCTSTom De Ruyck · Stan Knoops · Niels Schillewaert · Gita Coenen · Soraia RodriguesBRINGING CONSUMERS INTO UNILEVER’S them act upon the insights and move forwardRESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CENTER towards developing more impactful products and marketing. The last paragraphs look at howGreat companies understand the importance of effective different elements of the framework haveconsumer insights when it comes to outperforming been in achieving a successful outcome, in ordercompetition. Engagement in learning and keeping to learn and improve our initial way of working andknowledge up-to-date through a constant search to fine-tune our overall strategy.for new insights, engagement in getting close toconsumers and immersed in their daily lives to CREATING A ‘CONSUMER CENTRICinspire and understand their reality and the drivers THINKING’ COMPANYof consumer value, has proven to be one of themost critical corporate competencies. Unilever was one of the front runners in setting up „Consumer Connect‟ programs. Unilever demandsSuch engagement ideally to happens on three its R&D workforce to go out and engage withlevels: consumers to experience their everyday lives. This „Hearts‟ of employees: establishing a is successful because of a top down commitment culture of consumer centricity and from higher management (promoting „consumer creating a mind shift among employees. centric thinking‟ as a priority and leading by example) and bottom up commitment throughout „Minds‟ of employees: delivering sparks of the organization (executives feel the need to start fresh inspiration through dialogues with the „consumer connect‟ revolution within their consumers, in order to craft or reshape company). strategic plans, product development road maps or research agendas. Engaging the internal audience „Actions‟ of employees: concrete actions The distinctive feature of the approach described or changes in the cycle of developing new in this article is its commitment to presenting it in a products. This level is about bringing way that will constructively generate impact on the strategy into action. „hearts‟, „minds‟ and the „actions‟ of executives.Engagement requires different strategic thinking. It „Consumer&U‟ is pioneering in implementing therequires „co-ownership‟ of the consumer insights more classic „consumer connect‟ activities withinwithin the organization. This article describes a Unilever. It is an online platform that connects thevaluable framework of how to engage and inspire Unilever R&D society with consumers throughan (R&D) organization via consumer insights, let stories and visuals of consumers‟ everyday lives to form a compelling narrative (see figure 1).
3The platform offers a number of key benefits: Creating real „co-ownershipp‟ of consumer insights Engage with the consumer world. It‟s In order to build real engagement with the project, about getting to know the consumer who both at the consumer side and at the company is behind the dry figures and discovering side, our data collection aand reporting are set up the insights in a longitudinal, engaging as a longitudinal, fun and engaging process. and fun way. Research results have more impact when turned into an experience in which employees are Be inspired and gain fresh knowledge entertained with insights or when they - literally - about the cconsumer in general and get can „play‟ with the research results sparks of inspiration that will be useful in (>„infototainment‟). Next to that, research one‟s daily on-the-job thinking. participants deliver richer insights when taking part in research that feels like playing a game Lead to action, through behavioral (>„gammification‟). We embedded such technique change: being more eager to understand into the research design of our project in order to the real reasons behind certain consumer maximize the return on information. decisions and being more curious in everyday working life. Lastly, to bringing A staged apprroach for impactful insights plans and potential actions to life. Our objective was to change the hearts minds, andHaving these three elements is key for creating actions of the R&D executives by bringingreal „co-ownershhip‟ of consumer insights within a consumers to the table where “R&D decisions” arecompany. Once the hearts of employees are made. Therefore it was necessary to get close tohanged, the next step is to capitalize on the mind consumers and immerse in their daily life to inspireshif and implement the new knowledge and and help understand consumer reality. Wephilosophy into strategic and more tactical projects therefore conducted an online research communityThen, getting inspired through connections and with consumers (InspireUs) as well as executivesdialogues with consumers becomes business as (Consumer&U). (See figure 2).usual.
4 be able to do even better in the next consumer 1. Engage - discovering he world of the gamification. consumer through playing games 2. Inspire - be inspired to think about yourTo realize the objectives of this project we asked consumer and be triggered to poseUK consumers (N= 90) to keep an online diary questionsduring a week on product categories relevant forUnilever (four chapters: meet & greet, food & The „InspireUs‟ community discussions were bettercooking, you & personal care, you & home care). fed with relevant questions as we used theInstead of just presenting the results of this diary executives scores of the games to develop topicresearch in a traditional slide deck, we let the R&D guides. In running the research community weorganization engage and „live‟ the results applied game-design techniques which made participating consumers go beyond „the usual‟ inthemselves. Each of the R&D employes was linked terms of input & insights generated (both in termsto one of the consumers (participants gave explicit of quantity and quality). The following examples ofpermission for this). The R&D executives played game elements were used (see figure 3).three games (one about each product category)with question about the UK consumer in general Putting „challenges‟ forrward instead ofand about the life of the specific consumer the „just asking questions‟ (motivating themwere connecting with. Afterwards each R&D on an „individual level‟): e.g. „You areemployee got a score upon which they could earrn hired by Unilever R&D: what would be thea badge per game: e.g. consumer newbie, next innovation you develop in theconsumer explorer and consumer super star. By laundry category?‟playing the game they unlocked the right answersto the questions and additional information about Rewarding achievements (based on thetheir consumer and he UK consumer in general to
5 number of posts made and the number of community (again playing on the words used in each post) with badges „individual level‟). (See figure 3). leading to a „ranking‟ within thefigure 3). community‟ to go for a common goal); Creating teams (one team focused on „food‟ products, another team on During the whole project a news website was „personal care‟ and a last one on „home online which was used as a reporting platform for care‟) and asking them to compete with the whole R&D organization. It contained crispy one another. The best team got rewarded articles about consumer behavior in the UK based by early access to the secret room on the diaries, data from previous habits and (triggering „groups‟ feelings); previous attitude studies conducted by Unilever, interview with participating consumers and Unlocking exclusive content in „secret journalistic insight reports from the community. The rooms‟ in which new products from website provided executives the opportunity to Unilever brands are discussed if a certain send in questions for consumers. The most level of total activity in terms of number of relevant ones were elected and reported back on posts made on the community platforrm the website (see figure 4). was reached (stimulating the (sub-)
6A project champion was assigned from each game and 58% of them played all three of theparticipating R&D department. Their role focused games. Mean correctness score across employeeson motivating and engaging the R&D employees to in the games was 4.77 out of 10.participate in „Consumer&U‟. Moreover, offlineactivities were organized on site to increase “I think it‟s worrying that a lot of the real‟ R&D‟ersvisibility of „Consumer& ‟, e.g. tastings, cross had bad scores in the games. Maybe this iscategory discussions and videos showing because they are so focused on heir own everydayconsumer routines. activities. It‟s important not to lose your gut feeling and logic thinking” – Consumer&U participant 3. Act - deep dive into the assembled insights We needed to complete the loop that brought us from problem to solution. We need to collect theThe actionability was embedded in our gamified lessons learned during the engagement andand infotaining approach. It stimulated inspire phases: what made the trransformation aconversations on the work floor which was also success? To get a feel about the impact weenhanced by internal communication, e.g. by created on the hearts and minds of the R&Dprinting out picture of consumer profiles and employees we conducted a pre- and post--surveysticking them to the walls of coffee corners or among all participating executive measuring theirhelping each other out during the games with tips perceived consumer knowledge and their usage& tricks. levels of the study. Using descriptive and multivariate statistics we assess if there was aAs a final round-up, workshops were organized in mind shift in term of consumer knowledge.each department of the R&D organization to shareknowledge and discuss how hey could be turned What factors contribute the most to a knowledgeinto concrete actions for the future. impact? In order to have a qualitative understanding on the effects of the „Consumer&U‟GAMIFY, ENTERTAIN AND CREATE A WIN- project at Unilever R&D Vlaardinggen, we alsoWIN! conducted eight interviews with Unilever executives. R&D execs with both high and lowWin #1: employees engaged with the consumer scores were selected and during the interviewworld through ‘infotainment’ general impressions, effects and triggers causing knowledge learnings were discussed.More than 640 R&D employees registerred for„Consumer&U‟ of which 90% played at least one
7Figure 5 summarizes the effects which attitude of R&D executives, by means of„Consumer&U‟ – „InspireUs‟ has had on the comparing the top-2% before and after the studyCONSUMER & ME: Being engaged with in terms of pictures, quotes and stories were theconsumers and their daily lives. There is a main reasons to talk about the project withsignificant increase in product knowledge and colleagues:knowledge about consumers‟ path to purchase.Comparing Top 2% on the statements „I know very “Consumer&U was really present in our team.well what products are on the market for the Sometimes we were with 3 persons behind onecategory I work for‟ and „Within the categories I PC, trying to figure out things”.work for, I know how consumers decide whichproducts to buy‟ increased with respectively 10% “We printed out the profiles of our consumer toand 13% in absolute terms. For knowledge about generate conversations in the coffee corner,decision processes this implies a relative increase people started to compare their consumers”.of 81%! Based on the in-depth interviews we “It was an eye-opener for us, developing premiumconcluded that the games played an essential role products, that while we pay attention to so manyin gaining this effect. Having a holistic in-depth and details, some consumers are just buying theillustrative view of a consumer instead of an cheapest products out there, that evoked someaggregated picture of a group of consumers astonishment in the team”.(typically reported in consumer research) triggersimportant insights: In addition, the way the results were presented, the champions played an important role in making the“My consumer wasn‟t very consistent in his project a success:answers. They don‟t always know how they act.Through this project it became clear to me that the “Normally we would not have time for theselogic we follow isn‟t always the logic of the projects, but our champion insisted that weconsumer”. participated, they got conversations going and we really made it a team effort to join. Once youCONVERSATIONS: Talking with colleagues and applied, there was some kind of social pressure topeople in the direct environment. Interestingly the finish all the games.”project triggered conversations among executivesin both the professional as well as in the private The project had an extended impact beyond theenvironment (which is in fact the consumer world). working space. Due to our approach employeesThe games itself, supported by the offline activities started a dialogue with the consumer world around– and the richness of the data them. A significant difference (p < 0.05) between
8pre- and post-measurement was found on the absolute number of posts, „InspireUs‟ is our all-statement „I often ask family/friends what they think time high (even across long term communities withabout our products, or how they make purchase a duration of e.g. three months). The user posts ofchoices‟: a rise from 12% to 55%. the top 3 InSites communities in terms of contribution level (one with youngsters and oneOBSERVING THE ENVIRONMENT: Observing with brand fans) were content coded.competitor brands and understanding consumers‟buying decision process. Finally, employees were For these three communities manual codersstimulated to explore the real-life competitive labeled posts as being “off-topic” or “on-topic” asenvironment even more than before. On the well as having “interaction or not”. We learned thatstatement „In the supermarket I always look at the interaction in our „gamified‟ community was notUnilever products and those of our competitors‟ we higher compared to the non-gamified communities. There are even slightly more off-topic arguments insaw a significant increase of 9% towards a Top2 on-topic posts and within an on-topic post therescore of 83%. are slightly less on-topic arguments in this „gamified‟ community Still, this does not have a“My consumer was totally different than I am, she‟s negative impact as it does not influence the gain ina real doll. When she goes out she first brushes terms of overall insights (measured by the numberher teeth with glitter toothpaste. When I travel to on-topic arguments across posts). Each memberthe UK I might look for it in the supermarket”. contributed 7.2 arguments on a daily basis compared to only 1.1 to 0.6 for the otherThere is a clear benefit in reporting results with a communities.fun, engaging and longitudinal character. ExposingR&D to research over a six week period of time Next, we benchmarked the satisfaction scores ofcombined with the engagement with an individual participants with the community experience basedconsumer and the total community of consumers, on a database of 1335 participants from 19 pastmakes the research findings stick : communities. We observed a significant difference in terms of satisfaction between our „gamified‟“The way Consumer&U was organized, makes you „InspireUs‟ community and the benchmark ofspent time and makes it sticky, you really had to communities with the same duration (three weeks)dive into the world of your consumer to score in the on „identification with the community‟ (sig. 0.001 -game”. 7.5 vs. 6.7) and „perceived information benefit‟ (sig. 0.035 - 7.7 vs. 7.2). This strongly indicates that theWin #2: engaged participants > more and richer gamification of a research community makesinsights through ‘gamification’ participants more engaged to the community („identification with the community) and increasesThe second phase for participants in the platform usage. Also, they seem to get more value„InspireUs‟ project, the online research community, out of it („perceived information benefit‟). Bothresulted in a stream of stories, in-depth result in more activity on the platform and richerdiscussions with consumers about the findings of insights. This is illustrated by a quote from one ofthe diaries, answers to previously defined and ad the participants:hoc questions from Unilever employees. In total4,547 posts were made by 90 active participants „It‟s surprising how hooked I have got on it‟; „I willover a three week period of time. On average, this really miss the interaction and everyone here‟;is a daily contribution per active participant of 2.4 „When I got my expert badge I bragged to my kids.posts. It‟s not often we get called such things so why shouldn‟t we be just pleased with ourselves‟.If we benchmark this with all research communitiesconducted by InSites Consulting „InspireUs‟ comes THE DNA OF IMPACTFUL RESEARCH: WHATout in second place in terms of „average daily MAKES EXECUTIVES USE RESEARCH?contributions per participant‟. If one realizes thatthe number 1 community was about a very popular In the post-measurement, participating executivesTV-soap these figures from the „Consumer&U‟ evaluated the research project and assessed tocommunity are truly impressive (as it is about what extent they used the results in their decisioncommodity FMCG products). making. These findings largely confirm the “win- wins” discussed above.It seems that gamifying a research community (asdescribed above) adds value by creating extra Executives rated all elements of the studyengagement with the project at the consumer side positively, but valued some elements more thanalso when considering other metrics. In terms of others (see table 1). The results of this study were
9perceived as „simple and easy to understand‟, „concrete and credible‟ and as „a conversation„illustrative of consumers‟ every-day life‟, starter‟.„recognizable‟, „based on creative methods‟,TABLE 1, STUDY ATTRIBUTES AS PERCEIVED BY THE UNILEVER R&D EXECUTIVES* 9-point Likert scale question “the results of this study …”, with 1 being completely agree and 9 completely disagree. consumer behavior (e.g. results from previousThis is in line with the objective usage statistics of market research studies) were less consultedthe top 10 most popular articles on the news when looking at the visitor statistics of our platform.website. R&D participants were most interestedreading the updates about the consumer they were A central question which remains is whether the research was actually used and „what makes R&Dconnected to (the one they followed through the executives use consumer research information?diaries and games). Executives preferred articles Research usage was measured by means of fourand content with pictures, remarkable quotes, real items and composed into one factor based onlife stories and game results. The posts with principal components analysis (see table 2).detailed information, facts and figures aboutTABLE 2, STUDY ATTRIBUTES AS PERCEIVED BY THE UNILEVER R&D EXECUTIVES 1) where correlated with this market researchThe quality characteristics of the study (from table usage variable to assess the drivers of what made
10executives use the results of this study in their functioned as „a conversation starter withdaily profession and decision making. The most colleagues‟. Interestingly, at the other end of theimportant items contributing to the use of this spectrum, „traditional method metrics‟ (e.g. solidmarket research study are the fact that the findings method, credible, easy to interpret …) were of lesswere „inspiring‟, „made them engage with how importance for the R&D executives to use theconsumers really live‟, „gave them the feeling that findings as fuel for decision making. Relativelythey were close to consumers‟ and „generated speaking it seemed somewhat harder to achieveuseful insights, worth sharing with colleagues‟. insights that were truly unique. Still, one needs to put things in perspective and acknowledgeWe mapped this „correlation with research usage‟ executives are human beings who in hindsight(an indication of importance) against the evaluation tend to underestimate the “utility of information”.of the study (an indication of performance) to get While not bad, our study may have provided evenan insight in the „Critical Success Factors‟ of the more leverage if internal conversations andstudy (see figure 6). The success of „Consumer&U‟ closeness to consumer was more activelywas due to the usage of „creative methods to stimulated – for future studies internal marketinggenerate insights‟, „the feeling of engagement with along these lines may prove useful.real consumer life‟, and the fact that research FIGURE 6, PERFORMANCE - IMPORTANCE MATRIX WITH MARKET RESEARCH STUDY USAGEIn summary the market research study was used As argued earlier, once a company culture ofby executives if they found it to be „inspiring & customer centricity is created, one needs to keepengaging‟ and (to a lesser extent) also „credible & the spirit alive and translate the philosophy of suchconcrete‟. Simplicity was not a driver for usage.1) a project to more strategic and tactical day-to-dayThe combination of games and news streams as projects. During the post-hoc interviews someknowledge channels indicates that market suggestions for strategic follow-up projects were made:research providers need to go beyond classicalmethods and let executives engage with the “This should only be the start. The UK consumer isconsumer world. Executives need to be able to different, but we still have an image of how theirobserve and engage in ongoing dialogues with life could be. It would be even more challenging ifconsumers. we could connect to consumers in India and define our strategy for this type of new markets based on it”POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS FOR UNILEVER R&D
11“We have been developing spreads for years now “quality attributes” were subjected to a principaland we still make a lot of assumptions about components analysis with Varimax rotation andconsumers. It would be great to connect with generated three components: “Inspiring &consumers in the same way about the products engaging”, “Credible & Concrete” and “Simple” –within our very own category on a more strategic 71% explained variance. The composite measurelevel” of market research usage was regressed on these components as well as gender and seniority. TheUp to the next research game level! model was powerful (R²=0.68) and “Inspiring & engaging”, “Credible & Concrete” were found to beACKNOWLEDGEMENT significant. Female executives also used the study results significantly more than their maleThe authors would like to thank Thomas Troch (the colleagues.moderator of the „InspireUs‟ community), AnoukWillems (the community manager in charge of the THE AUTHORSgames and the news website „Consumer&U‟),Stephan Ludwig (PhD Candidate at the University Tom De Ruyck is Head of Research Communities,of Maastricht for providing us with the benchmark InSites Consulting, Belgium.data from other InSites Consulting research Stan Knoops is Head of Consumer Insights Europecommunities in terms of participation andparticipant satisfaction), the InSites Consulting IT & Global Capability Leader, Unilever R&D,department who made it all happen from a Netherlands.technical point of view and last but not least, the Niels Schillewaert is Managing Partner, InSitesemployees of Unilever‟s R&D plant in Vlaardingen Consulting; and Marketing Professor, Vlerickfor being excellent „players‟ and our „lovely‟ UK Leuven Ghent Management School, Belgium.participants for being as insightful as always. Gita Coenen is R&D Management Trainee,FOOTNOTE Unilever R&D, Netherlands.This conclusion is based on a principal Soraia Rodrigues is R&D Management Trainee,components and regression analyses. The study Unilever R&D, Netherlands.