Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Since we launched our Hong Kong and Singapore offices  in October 2012,it has been a very fruitful year for us to meet different clients. The appetite for co-creation has been remarkable.

Image by Flickr user JD Hancock

When we talk about co-creation in Asia, one question inevitably comes up – “How do you recruit for ‘creative consumers’ in Asia?” To be fair, this question makes sense as there is a stereotype that Asians are less creative than their Western counterparts.  Asian culture is relatively more reserved, and independent and spontaneous ideas are less valued compared to other cultures. So Asian consumers can seem less comfortable in group creative situations.

However, after running some very successful co-creation projects in China, Singapore and Indonesia, we think that this is not as difficult as it sounds. Finding the right participants is certainly not something that we need to leave to chance! It is something that we can plan for and push for. We challenge the conventional wisdom on recruiting creative consumers in a couple of ways.

First of all, we need to go beyond the narrow view of creativity. We are aware that everybody talks about recruiting ‘creative consumers’ these days, but we also observe that the focus is very much on recruiting ‘artistically creative’ people, e.g. those who work in fields like graphic design, or have hobbies such as photography or painting. These professions &  interests are arguably less prevalent in Asia – but more particularly, they’re not necessarily relevant for a particular project.

Instead of classifying our consumers as either the ‘creative type’ or not, we look deeper for other qualities that can contribute to the co-creation experience as well. For instance, based on our experience, recruiting consumers with a strong sense of mindfulness, i.e. the ability to be aware of themselves and others, makes a huge difference on the group dynamics.

We also believe in tailoring our recruitment depending on the nature of the challenge. When we receive a brief from our clients, we think about which kind of person and what kind of intelligence would be required to crack the challenge. For instance, we look for:

  • Visual communicators on challenges about communications, developing key visuals/mode of action or to help with packaging & logo design
  • Creative problem solvers on more open challenges that require developing new-to-world, breakthrough ideas and building work-arounds to practical issues
  • Conceptual thinkers or people with specific education (e.g. science, philosophy, urban planning) on challenges that are more complex and require a good sense of logic, abstract concepts and seeing things from various perspectives
  • People in touch with their senses on challenges that involves new product development and product optimization (e.g. fragrances, flavours, textures)

We hope that this can spark off more ideas and thoughts on recruiting ‘creative consumers’ in Asia, and push ‘creative consumer’ recruitment in Asia further!

Let’s not beat around the bush here: working in a (market research) agency is not for everyone. But beyond all the tight deadlines, all the unexpected crises, and the sometimes difficult challenging client requests, there are those little things that simply make your day: a lovely note from an appreciative client, the great feeling at the end of a successful project, or coming in to an entirely dressed-up office on Halloween day.

This time last year, I used to be angry. Angry MR Client, in fact – as you may recall! But I joined FACE in April to start practising what I preached and it’s gone really well.

So while we’re reviewing 2013, here’s my experience of life at FACE over the last 8 months.

The people

FACE Christmas celebrations 2013

Despite the fact that Facers are an eclectic mix of people (from food bloggers to comedy actors, to DJs, and even… Arsenal supporters), coming from over 15 different countries, Facers are actually quite similar. Because to join the company, you not only have to pass the usual ability tests, but also have the qualities that make one a Facer: a perfect blend of humbleness, passion and curiosity.

I’m not sure how many people would go to a Thai club at 3am on a Friday night, in Putney to find creative male Thai nationals living in London for less than a year… for work. Or wake up at 4am on a Monday morning to fly to a full day co-creation workshop. My colleagues make the impossible possible and this kind of dedication can only come from pure passion and love for what you do.

The vibe

You know that warm & cozy feeling you get when you start typing something into Google and the suggestions window pops up, and you realise you’re not the only one in the world with that obscure question? Well, working at FACE is a bit like that – you never feel alone. There’s always someone out there to learn from, to help you, to teach you, and most importantly, to challenge you.

I was really surprised to see that Andrew Needham (our CEO) doesn’t actually have an office, but shares a hot-desk, just like everyone else. Yes, this may be trendy and all that, but I think at the heart of it, it sends a very important message: that everyone is important. That there are no closed doors. That all cards are on the table. Whether that means having an open debate about the kind of businesses we will not work with for ethical reasons or getting unsolicited feedback on one’s tea-making abilities.

The perks

FACE London Thanksgiving lunch

FACE has an in-house Production department which means we not only get perfectly set up research projects and the most creative participants, but also fantastic team events: cocktail drinking in an ice bar, a company-wide ping pong championship, or winning a Foscar (a FACE Oscar).

And that’s not all. Add to that: free breakfast every Monday, the massive – and oh so yummy – annual Thanksgiving team lunch, free cake on your birthday (which pretty much means everyone gets free cake at least once a week), and whiteboard walls for brainstorming. There’s even free classes in ‘Mastering the Perfect English Tea’ in our London office for those of us unfamiliar with this essential life skill.

The work

I’m not gonna lie. I can’t say that working at FACE is never stressful. Or that everyone goes home at 5.30pm every single day. But I guess that’s quite normal for an agency full of people that love what they do.

At FACE, we’re always working on something interesting: whether it’s reinventing an established category, helping a retailer deal with a social media crisis, or co-creating the next big thing in whatever category our clients throw at us. And having the Social team and the Qual team work in the same room (and many times on the same projects) is pretty amazing because you always learn so much from one another. I may be biased but show me any other agency that can combine two of the best market research methods (Qual and Social Media) in such a complementary way and I’ll show you an elephant that can dance the Macarena.

If someone asked me to describe a typical day at FACE, I would say: fun, fast and unpredictable. The constant flow of new briefs, urgent client requests or last minute participants’ cancellations ensure that your perfectly planned day never goes to plan. So if you’re one of those people who FREAK OUT WHEN UNEXPECTED THINGS HAPPEN TO THEM, you should definitely stay away from FACE.

But for me, joining FACE has been one of the best decisions of my career.


Want to learn more about what life is like here at FACE? Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn and keep in touch

2013 has been a fantastic year for the FACE blog. From viral video to data visualisation, we’ve done some great research into “How Stuff Spreads” – and how this can be illustrated and understood. We’ve commented on topical events, social media cross-culturally, we’ve spoken at conferences and – of course – we launched Pulsar, our social data intelligence platform.

Here are the highlights: our Top 10 posts of 2013.

1. How Stuff Spreads: Gangnam Style vs. Harlem Shake

With a massive 12,000 views, this was our post of the year. The post did the rounds of music industry blogs in particular, and our infographic was shortlisted for an Information Is Beautiful award. If you’ve not read it yet, here’s your chance to catch up!

2. Who is Angry MR Client?

FACE’s account manager Oana Stroie, it turns out! Our blog post unveiling the industry’s biggest secret gained almost 1000 readers from across the market research Twittersphere.

3. How Videos Go Viral

The second publication in our “How Stuff Spreads” series.  We  studied how 4 top video hits of 2013 were shared through Twitter, going in-depth on how you can define and quantify viral behaviour – and the role of audiences in driving the diffusion of content.

Read Part II here.

4. Sir Alex Ferguson Retires – Visualised

More top data visualisation work from Francesco D’Orazio, who tracked the #thankyousiralex hashtag and explored how different types of data visualisations communicated the story.

5. No limits to linkbait? Margaret Thatcher & the Brand Bandwagon Jumpers

Social media researcher Jess Owens observed that no news events seem to be off-limits in the current media age:

“Attention marketing” is a current buzzword – and a big challenge. In a world of near-infinite media abundance, getting anyone’s attention becomes profoundly difficult.  But brands and media agencies have come up with a solution.  They’ve learnt to listen, to wait and react. Call it real-time marketing, call it culture-jacking – or simply call it “learning from Oreo” and their megawatt SuperBowl tweet in February that went viral. Let the audience grow itself – then tap into that. Any news event will do – maybe.

When former British PM Margaret Thatcher died, some brands immediately tried to jump on this bandwagon. This is what happened:

6. The Future Of Social Media Research

Another storming Fran post, published in Research World magazine and presented at conferences, in which he outlines the challenges facing the social media monitoring industry – and 10 ways to tackle them. This is what next in social media research.

7. FACE launches Pulsar to mine ‘big social data’ for research

Pulsar launched on 18th April and has had a storming 2013. Pulsar Sales Manager James Cuthbertson has grown a team of 4 and won 20+ clients for the platform in just a few months.

Check the platform out on its dedicated website,

Pulsar website

8. 3 reasons social media is different in China

A great bit of research from Kate Davids and our Hong Kong office, talking about why brands need to “take culture seriously” and truly localise their digital content.

9. Why Researchers Should Learn To Code

Team Social have been attending CodeMaker training this year. We’ve found it a great way to understand the technology behind our social data platform Pulsar – and to identify possibilities for future social media research.

10. Measuring Le Web

We went to the Le Web conference in London with DataSift, and tracked everything people said about the conference. Top topics, top speakers – all live, in real-time. Both speakers and conference sponsors were curious to discover just what wins the social race at live events.


So that’s our 2013. Thank you for reading – and for tweeting, sharing and commenting. Thank you too to the researchers, agencies, planners and journalists who inspired us throughout the year.

We wish you a happy holidays and we’ll see you again in 2014!

We like to have a good time here at Face, and we’ll use any excuse for a party. Naturally, we had to go all out for the holidays! Here are some pictures of the office fun from our holiday and Thanksgiving parties in London. 

xmas&thanks1Xmas&thanks2 xmas&thanks3 xmas&thanks4

Images by Beci Ward


Like what you see here? Interested in joining the Face family as a freelancer? Click here to see our freelancer opportunities.

In the past 12 months I have seen a lot of people in advertising start to talk about the need for brands to open up and start to build relationships:

 “We can hypothesize that perhaps the key to brands succeeding in this new world is to mimic a human relationship as closely as possible with consumers”
[Edelman's new "brandshare" model]

“As companies become more digital and equipped with advanced marketing analytic tools that allow them to know and predict consumers’ behavior even better than consumers themselves, they need to be more human as well. It’s time to shift the paradigm. Brands need to not only connect directly with their fans but also rethink the concept of brand ownership. Brands can be owned by both the company and the community of customers, fans, and followers that rallies around them.”
[John Windsor of Havas & crowdsourcing agency Victor & Spoils, writing in Harvard Business Review]

And Clay Shirky was talking about “humanising brands” as far back as 2008.

Image by Flickr User Steven Shorrock

What’s this all about? It’s recognising a need for brands to build a dialogue with customers, listening as much as talking – and talking one-to-one as well as broadcasting. It’s about recognising that in the digital landscape, consumers aren’t just “little people” but can be peers and influence leaders – and so brands need to earn the respect of powerful brand evangelists who will shout from a mountain top how wonderful you and your brand really are.

But how do you do this? The journey of humanising brands goes beyond social media tactics and good community management. No – at FACE, we’d argue that brands needs to fundamentally change their behaviour and really put the customer at the heart of what they do.

Nicola Green, Director of communications and reputation at O2, expresses this well:

“I truly believe that brands should treat their social-media conversations like their real-world conversations – it’s all about understanding your audience, engaging with them in a human way and being consistent. Take the time to get to know your social community and build a rapport; you’ll learn what resonates with them and where the lines are in the sand. You’ll also learn what your audience expects from you – which, more often than not, can be swift customer service when something goes wrong.”
[Source: Marketing Magazine]

In 2014 I believe we are going to see more forward thinking companies adopt the strategy of humanising their brands in 3 key areas. This will open up big opportunities for the market research industry:

1. Develop a ‘listen first’ culture

Brands will demonstrate an authentic desire to listen and respond to people’s needs in real time by rolling out social listening solutions across customer service, research, marketing, product, operations, and HR. This type of active listening is the foundation of building meaningful relationships.

Brands need an objective market research partner to help develop select vendors and set the key benchmarks and metrics that will underpin the listening programme. They also need help to interpret the huge amounts of qualitative data they will be generating to support stakeholders across the business with faster decision making.

Yes, we said qualitative data. This is the value that market research can offer above the typical technology-led, dashboard-based social listening solutions that lead the market at present. It’s about going beyond volume and sentiment, and focusing on people and their needs.

2. Co-create

In 2014 we’ll see an increasing use of co-creation with customers and external experts. This will be carried out by R&D and marketing/products teams, and  to develop both new product innovations and communications. This gives people more personalised experiences that can create a stronger bond between the individual and the brand.

To run strategic co-creation programmes requires world class facilitation and moderation skills to manage interactions between large groups of internal and external partners. Arguably the more important role market research can play here is as the architect of these type of initiatives who ultimately can navigate objectively the politics of companies, and deliver outputs that meet the brief.

3. Agile Communications

All good brands are now publishers, producing content across a huge number of touchpoints. And they’re learning that brand conversations, meanings and needs evolve very quickly. To maximise the opportunity that real time communication offers, companies will be busy building agile CRM  & publishing teams who will be responsible for engaging people with relevant information and high quality, timely content that will delight customers.

To support this type of comms team requires continual input from consumers in the creative process to establish what’s relevant, what’s perceived as high quality, and what’s most interesting and shareable. This means that market research can play a role if the research is fast enough. Creative development needs to become more agile – and in 2014 we’ll see this roll out further. New models for content creation are starting to emerge where consumer communities are being consulted in realtime as an extension of the marketing team to ensure that what is being published will hit the mark.


We’ll no doubt be blogging more about each of these themes in 2014!

Meanwhile, for more about how humanising brands will open up new opportunities for research take a look at these recent articles from across the FACE team:

Building a listening programme:

Innovating co-creation:

On agile communictions: