Driving innovation through brand experience
As the saying goes: “If you spoke to people the way advertising does, they’d punch you in the face.” Today, it is necessary to communicate with people like they’re people, not treat them as if they’re machines made up of consumer data. Even more important is to understand that consumers are in control of your brand. Brand success today is about interacting with your customers to address joint needs. Finding out the challenges your audience faces and making sure your business answers those needs with the products and services it develops is key.
Therefore, it makes sense to build participation or ‘co-creation engagement’ into events so you can collect relevant customer information that can be used to drive innovation within your business that solves real customer problems.
A double win
Events offer the perfect co-creation engagement platform, where customers can personalise their experience through being able to give feedback about their needs and challenges. This can significantly increase the return you get from your live marketing.
It is a double win because not only does co-creation lead to the development of relevant products and services that your customers want, but it also delivers your field research, as you gain a deep understanding of the customer’s state of mind and their decision-making process for purchasing your goods.
Types of co-creation vary from the approach that everyone can be a co-creator, as in the BMW Co-Creation Lab, a virtual meeting place for people interested in cars who want to share their ideas, to input being restricted to a focused group, as in the Heineken open design initiative, which tapped into emerging talent at Milan Design Week to create an innovative pop-up club.
Other examples include SAP’s Idea Place, “an online channel for getting ideas into SAP products and solutions”, and P&G's connect+develop, “created to help external innovators and companies learn how to submit innovations”.
Tesco’s success in South Korea was down to local feedback that indicated consumers were time poor and tech savvy. Addressing the problem, the retailer placed virtual stores at commuter waiting points. They have used co-creation again since with the world's first socially created wine.
We’re not selling drills, we’re selling holes
Harvard’s Ted Levitt taught his marketing students that customers don’t buy a three-quarter-inch drill, but rather the assurance of a three-quarter-inch hole. If you are working with your customers to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes, then you are securing your brand’s future value rather than simply working to achieve volume targets.
This is particularly important for B2B brands, where audiences generally have high to advanced product knowledge and technical proficiency due to the nature of the relationship. In fact, this makes co-creation arguably even more relevant and valuable than in the B2C environment, because:
- More detail and clarity is wanted from clients and needed from businesses, as products tend to be more specialised and bespoke.
- Greater product knowledge and technical proficiency means B2B customers are able to provide better feedback and ideas.
- Opening up processes between customer and supplier not only strengthens relationships and trust, but is also the key stepping stone to allow for giant leaps in operational, product and innovation improvements.
A carefully crafted and targeted live experience can place visitors in the right mindset to provide valuable personalised collaboration to ensure your brand is serving your customers’ current needs. So the next time you are planning your event programme, think of not only footfall, but also of gaining important feedback through co-creation engagement, such as by:
- Using live events to foster think tanks and personal customer experiences that feed directly into supporting product development.
- Leveraging brand ambassadors that fuel social communities in real time as an enhancement to your events programme.
- Reciprocity opportunities with your visitors.
Today’s brands need a valid co-creation plan to ensure involvement with their customers is more than just superficial. In the past, customer and consumer understanding was mostly a research function siloed in the marketing department, on a need-to-know basis. Today, it needs to be at the heart of every key decision across every department, and live experiences can drive the process.
Fig1. Harnessing the power of the customer to accelerate innovation
By Sasha Mueller, Strategic Director at brand experience agency 2Heads