Insight-Driven Innovation

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What to expect?

Even iconic brands like Heinz have a need for

innovation, and solid consumer insights are crucial for its success. The challenge here was how consumer insights could be leveraged to a

maximum. How can we generate as many unique insights as possible which are also relevant for consumers? How can we engage both internal and external stakeholders to use the consumer insights? What human insights - related to understanding people’s daily tomato ketchup usage - can be linked to and used for optimizing (e.g. packaging) innovation ideas?

This whole context created a need for generating as

many unique and profound insights as possible. It is our firm belief that consumers are among the most effective consultants a company can hire and structural collaboration with them was required. The reasons for structural consumer connections are multiple, e.g.

consumers often have a long tenure with brands, they are engaged with brands and they are always right as they decide to buy brands (or not). We therefore engaged in a structural collaboration with consumers and empowered them throughout Heinz’ innovation process in several phases (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - From Human Insight to Innovation

Phase 1: Online ethnography

The aim in this first part was to generate new insights via a structured process that allows one to

explore, discover, fine-tune and screen consumer insights. We conducted a three-week online ethnography with 28 consumers, generating over 1,000 consumer usage photos tagged with consumer stories. Four different groups of consumers were recruited: Heinz Ketchup users, ketchup but non-Heinz-Ketchup-consumers, cold sauce consumers cold sauces and people who typically eat ketchup away of home but did not buy it for in-home consumption. All participants were asked to report on their

ketchup and cold sauce usage as well as that of their families. On an interactive blog, people described the context of each picture and reflected on drivers for consuming this particular cold sauce.

In order to reveal consumers’ latent motivations, we applied several observational techniques such as activation and deprivation exercises. During activation, people were asked to start using ketchup more often. During deprivation periods, we requested participants not to consume any ketchup for a couple of days and to report the moments when they missed it.

Subsequently, we also conducted discussions with participants of the ethnography to come to a more indepth understanding of latent needs and to probe these needs. All the data from the ethnography and interviews were assembled in an interactive consumer dashboard (i.e. a database of tagged consumer visuals and stories) which allowed the Heinz team to access the consumer stories intuitively. Figure 2 - Example of consumer news pushed internally at Heinz

To stimulate the connection between Heinz marketers and consumers, daily updates of ‘consumer news’ were

sent to the Heinz team via different (private) social media. This consumer news shared the most striking consumer findings in “real time” as it ran at the same time as the field of the ethnography (see Figure 2). To maximise the internal impact at Heinz even further we also compiled a film with the main results from the study.

Phase 2: Crowd interpretation

Next to traditional ideation techniques we applied the technique of crowd interpretation. Crowd interpretation is the analysis of research data by a group of research participants (i.e. the consumers themselves) in order to obtain a richer, more accurate interpretation of data which leads to insights. It is

based on two theoretical principles:

Wisdom of the crowd Wisdom of the crowd states that when grouping the information from different individuals, the decision of the group will outperform the decision made by one single member (Surowiecki, 2004). We believe that it is beneficial to analyse research data with a group of people or a

crowd in order to obtain better insights.

Managers’ “bounded reality” Bounded rationality is the idea that in decision making, rationality of individuals is limited by the

information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds and the finite amount of time they have to make decisions (Simon, 1991). The interpretation of data is coloured by the sole perspective of a researcher or manager and limited by his knowledge. By looking at the research results with a consumer crowd, we believe to have a greater chance to find the original insights. In fact, consumers are natural explorers and journalists, so their “truth” is at least as valid as that of researchers or marketers (Medina, 2008).

The crowd interpretation was done via a synchronous interactive online game. The game lasted for about one hour and had the following characteristics:

The game had different rounds under time pressure. Between each round participants were shown a score board with the intermediate scores to motivate participants to do even better in the interpretation.

A social dimension was added to the game by providing chat windows in which participants could talk to each other when the score board was shown. This enhanced the social status of participants.

In the last round new information was unlocked. People could see the input of other participants. The anticipation of this information stimulates people to continue the game.

The better a participant was at interpreting another participant’s input, the more points he/she gained. At the end of the game, the incentive was split in accordance to

the number of points the participants had gathered.

In total, we extracted 40 insights from the data. Eight of these insights (20%) came uniquely from the crowd via the method of crowd interpretation. Hence, crowd interpretation proves to be a powerful mechanism as it helps

shed a new light on consumer data and delivers complementary insights of similar quality as the ones derived from researchers.

The crowd interpretation did not only help to find better insights but also helped making the insighting project more visible within Heinz. Heinz managers and marketers also played the same game. They went through the

same procedure. Their interpretations were fed back to the consumers who evaluated them on correctness. This client involvement helped significantly. It was not so much the input of clients in isolation but especially the conversation and feedback of the participants on the client interpretation that helped identify additional blind spots in the current way of thinking.

The marketers were also excited about the game experience itself . Next to testing their

expertise about consumer know-how, it also tapped into internal competitiveness and even team building as the game fever hit. To illustrate such internal leverage, the project owner, a Heinz Marketing Director in Europe, described it in her e-mail to the whole team as follows:

“Dear all, I really encourage all of you to spend this hour as it is not only a crucial part of the process to get your thoughts and thinking on this but it is also a fun learning experience for yourself. I just finished it myself and considered it time well spent, despite my too full schedule. Maybe this is another incentive: I guess none of you want me to win this game…”

Intermission: Human Insights as Backbone After a quantitative insight validation study and ideation workshops, the human insights derived from

the ethnography and crowd interpretation engagement served as the backbone for Heinz to derive packaging ideas. The insighting work led to a profound understanding of “people” (not consumers or shoppers) using tomato ketchup and the role the condiment plays in their daily life. What was needed was input about what it is that inspires people to use ketchup and how it facilitates their daily life. This allowed the Heinz team and design agencies to get into ideation mode for concrete innovation development. Box 1 on the next slide illustrates such human insights that led to concrete packaging prototypes.

Several human insights centered around themes such as:

1 2

Naturalness as indication for quality

3 4

Eating is boring sometimes, but should be fun for kids


Spice up that meal

Present to impress

Eating with your eyes

Box 1 - Examples of human insights directly relevant for packaging designs

Phase 3: Global online research community

After developing packaging prototypes along these insights, an online research community in 7 key markets (Japan, China, the UK, Russia, Germany, the USA and Brazil) was set up. The objectives were to better

understand expectations towards a packaging in a local context; to obtain consumer feedback for a

range of packaging innovations and to assess opportunity areas for further pack idea optimisation. The “Heinz Shape It” community was conducted with 191 active participants; it generated over 6,000 consumer posts over the course of 3 weeks. The research community contained 4 separate discussion rooms. Each room focused on a specific set of packaging ideas addressing a similar consumer benefit. A fifth room was a social corner which allowed the participants to engage in tangential “off-topic” conversations. Such a social room is needed to keep the focus and reduce the noise in the actual research discussions, but it also helps to create consumer engagement (Schillewaert et al. 2011). Figure 3 is an illustration of the community design. Figure 3 - Heinz Shape It Research community platform design

The research reality was that there were many

To deal with this research reality we developed a specific

pack designs (13) to be tested and optimised.

approach to allow for effective community

For each of them, the information needs and

research procedure had to be the same in

management and to maximise engagement with consumers as well as executives (Schillewaert and De

order to allow consistency in research

Ruyck 2012). The 13 packaging designs were presented

findings and management decisions. This

to the consumers in a layered and interactive fashion in 3

would potentially lead to very repetitive and dull

consecutive phases: (1) animations illustrating packaging

exercises for consumers to complete, with the

usage, (2) static visual boards with extra explanations and

danger of a decrease in data or in data quality as

(3) a joint presentation of animatic and concept board.

a result. Another aspect of the research context was that several iterations and probes were

Each of these phases allowed to ask different probing

required to allow for creative design adaptations.

questions about the same packaging idea without

In addition, many stakeholders from Heinz where involved: consumer insights, marketing and branding functions.

boring the participants. At the same time different engagement and activation techniques were used to encourage participation among community members:


Participants were “poked” to participate and received badges when reaching a given activity level

for specific activities, e.g. uploading photos, answering specific important probes, participation rates in general as well as across discussion rooms.


Relatedly participants were encouraged to start their own discussions as if they were Heinz executives.


Because the pack evaluation procedure was repetitive and lengthy for consumers, we organised a treasure

hunt quiz. A riddle and 3 hints were hidden “somewhere” in the community behind a hyperlink. The quest concerned the year of Heinz’ foundation and hints were “We are looking for a number”, a photo of Ghandi (born the same year as Heinz) and a picture of Marilyn Monroe with a birthday cake. Participants knew upfront about the quiz and the fact that they could win an extra $10.


The project lead - Marketing Manager Ketchup at Heinz - introduced it herself, stressed the importance of the study and thanked for the progress made through personalised blog posts on the community. This particular small action of compassion humanised the research study as well as the brand - consumers where thankful to Heinz for being part of the initiative and realised something important was to be done with their inputs.

The impact of these engagement techniques

The online research community and engagement

was a heightened activity on the community

techniques allowed for a continuous iteration of ideas and

as all participants wanted to read everything which

learning: consumers elaborated on ideas, commented on

was going on in the community. Participants posted

proposed designs while the design agency developed new

links to wikipages and helped each other in solving

concepts based on the instant consumer feedback.

the quiz. All this led to better social dynamics which

In order to stimulate the connection between Heinz

enhanced the discussion levels and participation

marketers, designers and consumers, daily updates

rates. The online community not only engaged

of ‘consumer news’ were sent to the Heinz team

consumers as participants but also marketers

members via different (private) social media. In the

from the local market teams (who actively

consumer news, we shared the most striking consumer

participated in the discussion) as well product

news from the community. Through such internal

developers from the design agency. The design

engagement, the executives’ knowledge increases and

agency used the insights and discussions as

they will converse about the study at the water cooler and

inspiration for developing interactive animations of

continue to observe consumers beyond the mere report.

new pack designs which were then shaped and evaluated by consumers.


Our case study shows that there is a clear added value in insight driven innovation by means of

structurally collaborating with consumers for a number of reasons. First, we engaged with consumers to think harder. We illustrated how to bring consumers into the boardroom and to generate intelligence creatively or create knowledge leverage. Second, our study shows how to create internal

leverage within companies and how to make sure research becomes a conversation starter beyond the 60-minute debrief. Finally, our study ensured a positive external leverage by means of a positive

brand touch point experience among consumers. We also illustrated there is more potential with consumers themselves than we think. Consumers can be used as co-researchers as illustrated in our crowd interpretation method.

In summary, market research is about ‘humans’… understanding them out there in the market as well as changing their behaviour within companies.

Annelies Verhaeghe

Niels Schillewaert

Bert Borggreve

Gigi Ilustre

Head of Research Innovation InSites Consulting

Managing Partner & Co-founder InSites Consulting

Consumer Insight Manager HCE H.J. Heinz, Continental Europe

Senior International Marketing Research Manager H.J. Heinz, Continental Europe


Medina, John (2008). Brain Rules, Pear Press, WA. Schillewaert, N., De Ruyck, T., Ludwig S. and M. Mann (2011). The dark side to crowdsourcing in online research communities. CASRO Journal, pp. 5-9, Schillewaert, N. and De Ruyck, T. (2012). Give 'em all something to talk about. Tips for effective community management. Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, April. Simon, Herbert (1991). Bounded Rationality and Organizational Learning. Organization Science 2 (1): 125- 134. Surowiecki, James (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations Little. Brown

Want to know more about Consumer

Insight Activation?

Annelies Verhaeghe Head of Research Innovation

+32 9 269 14 06

Thank you!