Mattel Showcases Online Listening Community

In a previous post I highlighted the 2008 Groundswell Award winners. Given my focus on voice of the customer programs, I wanted to take a closer look at the winner for Listening: Mattel’s “The Playground.”

Mattel's The Playground

Here’s an excerpt from Mattel’s submission for the award:

Mattel’s Worldwide Consumer Insights Department created The Playground, a private online community of 500 moms with kids aged 3—10, with Communispace in June 2007 to help them listen to and gain insight into the lives and needs of moms to help drive growth and innovation. During the fall of 2007, Mattel had a series of product recalls on popular toy brands that sent the organization reeling… Moms from the community provided Mattel with insights around how they felt about the recall, how they felt about Mattel, how they felt about China-produced toys, their perceptions of Mattel’s response plan, what their biggest fears and concerns were, and what Mattel could do to help them.

My take: I’ve been looking at social technologies a lot more lately (don’t worry, I haven’t turned into a Web 2.0 fanatic). It turns out that many companies like Mattel are successfully using online communities to get deep customer insight, especially in two of the five levels of voice of the customer program: Continuous Listening and Project Infusion. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about creating a private online community for the purpose of customer listening:

  • Make the case for an online community based on the speed of getting insight and the depth of the insight
  • Use a vendor like Communispace or Think Passenger to provide online community expertise
  • Dedicate internal resources to understand how to best use online communities
  • Recruit community members that represent important customer segments
  • Plan on an ongoing set of activities to keep the community engaged
  • Look for feedback across a wide range of areas (e.g., idea generation, product development, marketing messages)
  • As with any voice of the customer tool, don’t forget to focus on all aspects of LIRMing: Listen, Interpret, React, and Monitor. (Debi, thanks for reminding me about this one)

The bottom line: Online communities are a key tool for voice of the customer programs.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

2 thoughts on “Mattel Showcases Online Listening Community”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out Bruce, we are really proud of the work that we’ve done with Mattel and their fantastic community. I wanted to add one more thought to your great list of tips of things to keep in mind when creating a private community: choose a partner who has the capability and expertise to mine, analyze and serve up the insights from your community in a way that is appropriate and meaningful for your organization to be sure that they are heard. There is often so much going on in a customer community that it takes a team of dedicated people to effectively report on it, keep the company up to speed and continue building more actionable insight. It’s something we’ve honed over many years of doing this –our clients say it’s the most important part of making their communities successful!

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