ESOMAR Innovate 2010

This year’s ESOMAR Innovate 2010 held in Barcelona promised to be an exciting conference. With a theme like “Innovation Detonation” I expected to experience some serious disruptive thinking. Although not as disruptive as I had expected, the conference offered some great presentations with a good mix from client and agency side.
Keynote speaker Dan Hill, president of Sensory Logic and author of Emotionomics, started the conference with his presentation “Under the skin of reason”. Hill set out to prove that Descartes’ “I think – therefore I am” was wrong. Hill mentioned that the brain in fact consists of three brains, the sensory, the emotional and the rational brain, and it has become increasingly popular to dismiss the idea of rational decision making. Researchers’ focus is switching to the measure of emotions, something that is now possible through more advanced Neuroscience and MRI techniques. And Sensory Logic has developed techniques to analyse facial expressions in order to measure positive or negative engagement with commercial messages.
Early consumer engagement
Deutsche Telekom and Kraft Foods talked about the importance of early customer involvement. Deutsche Telekom has established an internal Creation Centre to facilitate the development of new ideas. One key element is to send managers into the homes of their customers, where they stay for a couple of days to observe households in real-life situations. The feedback is then used in special workshops where ideas are either discarded or turned into concepts and eventually propositions. Although the customer visit experience made several Deutsche Telekom managers feel uncomfortable at first, it has been broadly adopted in the organization and most importantly, it has created happy customers!
Kraft Foods also focuses on getting consumer (and shopper!) views at an early stage. Michel ten Donkelaar mentioned that many companies involve the consumer too late in the process. Rather, prototypes should be tested with consumers as early as possible so that potential weaknesses can be detected and rectified before the manufacturing process has started, thus avoiding costly mistakes.
This year’s Innovate conference was dominated by co-creation studies, including presentations from BMW, Coca-Cola, GSK and Unilever. The type of case studies varied from “how to use consumers’ creativity to develop new products” to an online co-creation lab.
BMW has been using the concept of co-creation for a number of years and has recently started to integrate its various projects. Ideas contests, a customer evaluation lab, lead user projects etc. have all come together into a new, single BMW co-creation lab to create a long-lasting platform. This holistic approach is already paying dividends with more members, more ideas and more engagement ( The co-creation lab is a great example of the power of online communities, and was very well presented by BMW and Hyve.
Coca-Cola Spain and agency Metado Helmer showed a very nicely made video of their ethnography journey, co-creating new cocktails with bar tenders and trendsetting consumers. The video and the process were well presented, together with the chispazos (Coca-Cola and Martini Vermouth) we received afterwards. And I’m sure Bacardi, who owns the Martini brand, was happy with the result as well. Considering that the study took place in 2007, I thought it was somewhat long ago to present at Innovate 2010 though…
GlaxoSmithKline US and Communispace showed us another great example of an online community. They also went down the route of co-creation, using very tightly controlled groups and specially invited participants. Because of this exclusivity, members are more willing to share their thoughts on sensitive topics such as health issues or weight loss. Key take out: “Engage and listen at every stage of the process”.
Unilever and Face deployed a combination of crowd sourcing with co-creation, listening to a large group of people, while working with a select group (the 1%-ers) to generate new ideas. This has proven to be a successful approach to come up with new ideas for the next Axe/Lynx shower gel.
Blending new and old
In addition to a range of joint client/agency presentations there were also a couple of agency presentations. Nielsen India presented how online surveys can be made more fun and entertaining, while Richard Owen from Hall & Partnersspoke about blending new and old media and overcoming the lack of benchmarks.
Owen warned of some mistakes companies often make when trying to be innovative. H&P’s advice to clients is not to ask for volunteers to run and test (sometimes speculative) new ideas, but ask an executive to take ownership and responsibility for each project. Owen also mentioned that we should not be afraid to mix our own data with other information sources – in other words, researchers should aggregate data sources and become data curators. In today’s connected world, this is becoming more and more relevant, as this is where researchers can make a real difference. It’s neither the software nor the data; it’s the connections between the large amounts of data and the conversion into actionable insight that is valuable to clients.
Interactive workshop
There was also a live innovation session conducted by Spring Research UK. This session, spread across both days, allowed participants to develop a strategy and generate ideas for a virtual organization. Our team won a bottle of champagne, and as the English all had to run to catch an earlier flight due to fog in London, the Americans had a nice celebration…

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