Get hijacked by your consumers now!

Last week I attended ESOMAR’s General Conference in Athens. About 800 peer researchers from all around the globe gathered to hear about the latest evolutions and trends in our profession. You could call it an annual “reality check”: are we still on the forefront of our industry?
I was happy to experience that we have been investing our money and R&D efforts in those domains that are still “hot” today. Tracking conversations and social media research in general constituted the lion’s share of the congress programme. I was also proud that two of our sharp Forward Lab R&D brains were invited to take care of ESOMAR’s workshop on nethnography. Co-creation and MROCs (a hairy beast according to the ever witty Research Superstar semi-finalist Tom De Ruyck ) were key topics of the conference as well.
Apart from an interesting paper on brand advocacy (of which you can read my post on the conversation manager blog), I personally got most inspired by a joint presentation of Coca-Cola UKand our British colleagues of Face. “Project hijack” is an ongoing online community of older teenagers to help Coke think about the role consumers can play for the brand. Simply put, it keeps Coca-Cola in touch with their key audience in the real world, in real time.
Beth Corte-Real of Coke UK and Philip McNaughton of Face explained that this insighting platform was a response to an urging need, considering the longer term consumption decline of both the Coca-Cola and other sparkling or fizzy brands of the company among the 16- to 19-year-olds in Britain. All stake-holders within the company (including both the bottler’s and the brand’s division) were involved with a project that had the ambition to really get under the skin of young people and deliver insights in a real youth voice. Within the online community, a combination of video diaries, online focus groups, real time mobile phone status updates, social media analysis and co-creation workshops together with Coke’s research teams was Face’s solution to this challenging client demands. After 3 years of project hijack, 5026 forum posts and blog entries and 16 co-creation stakeholder workshops, some compelling learnings were drawn. I only illustrate a few that were covered in the presentation, do buy the ESOMAR paper if you want to get more.

  • Real conversations mean real insights: allowing young people talk to each other rather than responding to researchers yielded a much richer amount of insights
  • Playtime all the time: community members adored to play with Coke’s brands, packages, products and campaigns. This freedom of expressing themselves was key to the participants while at the same time quite inspiring for the research and brand teams observing how consumers were bending and sculpting their franchises.
  • Limited formal debriefings: instead of spoon-feeding packaged insights, Coke’s internal teams were stimulated to find the chunks of information they needed.

Beth Corte-Real ended the presentation with some examples of how this open source collaboration with youth not only brought insights but also concrete actions within The Coca-Cola Company.

  • Coke’s on pack promos for instance were transformed to a more straight forward, focused and simple message using youth’s own (mobile phone related) currency.
  • Video diaries depicting moments when youth is most engaged with the category brought inspiration to pack formats as well as shopper strategies.
  • Putting the young consumer at the heart of all insights taught Coke’s team about the passion points that could support branding platforms across Coca-Cola’s portfolio of brands.

I do believe this is the way to get answers to questions you’re not even thinking about today and I hope many brands will follow Coke’s openness to this new research approach.

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