ESOMAR’s Asia Pacific 2013 conference in Ho Chi Minh City has already kicked off (keep an eye out for my summary blog with all the highlights), but even if you can’t make it, I wanted to share a piece of work we’ll be presenting tomorrow.
Written by myself (Andrew Ho) and my American counterpart, the head of our New York offices Philip McNaughton, this presentation will be all about how co-creation can help build stronger cross-regional brands throughout Asia.
We were working with the beverage brand, Mizone, which had already grown strongly in the APAC region – but with independent brand voices in different Asian markets. The key business challenge was to develop a consistent and differentiated brand voice and vision that worked across markets, supported the growth of the brand, and yet was still relevant and attuned to consumer mindsets and aspirations.
There were two key challenges to this project:
- How to effectively bring consumer voices directly into the development of a high-level brand vision?
- How to identify one common vision and higher-purpose for the brand that could support pan-regional growth, without losing the flexibility needed to cater to the individual nature of each specific market?
Bringing consumer voices into brand vision development through Co-Creation
At first glance it seems counter-intuitive to ask consumers what they want a brand’s point of view on the world to be. If we have to ask, aren’t we missing the point? Should we be asking consumers to intervene in the magic and craft of marketing? We know that this point of view should be rooted in an understanding of our audiences – we know that research and data must play a role – but can we go beyond this?
The answer lies in moving away from the research paradigm of question and answer, ‘them and us’, and into a framework that invites collaboration to harness the skills and vision of marketers alongside the creativity, truth and passion of consumers.
This was a 4 phase process:
- We started out with a phase of more ‘traditional’ ethnographic research with consumers – spending time with them in their places and spaces both offline and online and talking to them about their passions, motivations and aspirations for the future. This involved blogging communities, consumer connects and researcher lead interviews to develop a rich insight base about the target audience in each market.
- We then use this research to develop a number of insight platforms, and from those we developed a number of brand vision statements.
- We then took these ideas into a co-creation workshop where we worked with leading edge consumers in each market – Indonesia and India – to explore the potential for and relevance of our insight platforms and brand vision statements.This was not about asking people what they thought or whether they ‘liked’ or didn’t like the insights. It was about allowing them to tell us through a mix of storytelling and creative game-play what the insight platforms and statements meant to them, what was most resonant, and how they related the vision and insights to their own lives. Through this process we learnt not only where the central heartland of each potential brand vision lay, but also we saw (rather than asked) which of the potential areas generated most warmth and connection.
- Following the consumer work, we then ran sessions with the local agency in each market to identify the strongest insights and how they played into the strongest brand vision statements. We used the raw material generated in the consumer workshops to hone and craft impactful language that expressed a brand vision articulated directly from a human and local perspective.
Identifying one common vision across markets
While the co-creation sessions allowed us to articulate rich and relevant visions and points of view for the brand in each market, the larger challenge of finding a consistent and coherent vision for the brand in the region required a further step.
This involved client and agency teams coming together from across the region in a workshop inspired by insights and vision statements generated in previous phases on the study. While this allowed each market to give its own point of view, the principle was to bring cross-cultural teams together to develop cross-cultural perspectives for the brand.
On a simple level this process was about trying to find consistencies between markets, but more important was identifying fundamental human truths that could power the brand emotionally and functionally, and allow it to stand for something differentiating and purposeful in consumers lives.
Crucial to the success of this was the fact that stimulus brought into that workshop combined real insight from the markets, but also incorporated consumer inspired language and points of view that related directly to the purpose of generating big thinking for the brand. The consumer outputs from the co-creation gave a compass, a direction for the most powerful routes the brand could take – even if they did not map out all the stages of that route.