There was an interesting article in BusinessWeek about how Unilever used Co-Creation to develop a new product for its Axe brand. Using a London-based firm called Face, the CPG behemoth brought a group of 16 young consumers with an active interest in Axe and other health-and-beauty products to New York. The participants were told about the brand and then asked to create a product from scratch that would embody the concept of “freshness.”
According to Face’s CEO Andrew Needham:
Often consumers take you to places that you would never thought of going to had you used more traditional research methods
The group came up the idea of developing a fragrance that transforms throughout the day. Unilever took the concept and created a product named “Twist” after the idea got a positive response from Face’s online community called Headbox. The product launched late last year.
My take: Customer feedback is critical in every portion of the product lifecycle: concept ideation, product development, marketing launch, customer and warranty service, recalls, end of life, etc..
This is NOT new news. But executives periodically need to be reminded that they operate in a corporate vacuum, often devoid of any real customer feedback. That’s why I often rant that companies are from Venus and customers are from Mars.
Take a look at what David Cousino, global category director of Unilever’s consumer marketing insights group, had to say about the “Twist” process:
We couldn’t believe that the stewards of the brand hadn’t talked about how fragrance works until now… Sometimes it takes someone who isn’t as close to the category of business to break those filters away and show what they think is interesting
The rise of social media has (thankfully) re-ignited the interest in customer feedback. Companes should get smarter about infusing customer insight in all of their efforts — using social and non-social channels.
Keep in mind, however, that insight doesn’t always require deep statistical analysis; you just have to get the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time (see my post: Market Research Needs Less Statistical Analysis).
The bottom line: Companies need a lot more customer feedback.