When it comes to understanding the consumer, your company has likely got the whole research toolkit — nationally representative surveys, focus groups of 18-24 year olds, lengthy monthly trend reports (“wait, paleo + vegan = pegan?”), in-depth interviews with peanut allergy moms, etc. However, between the long marketing mix meetings, back and forth with product development, and lengthy negotiations with trade, it’s easy to lose sight of your consumer when your consumer insights colleague steps out of the room. In order to be exceedingly relevant, consumer research should be fun and evergreen — and not just limited to the official insights teams.
After all, building up your entire team’s empathy for the consumer will lead to better product innovations, packing, communications, and channel decision-making. What could be more important than finding small ways to get your internal team excited and immersed with the consumer? If your innovation pipeline is not where you’d like it to be, try switching it up and use some of our most energizing research ideas to excite your team:
1. Mock trial
Have more than one brand/product/packaging design? Pin them against each other with a mock trial. The jury is your target audience, the judge is a moderator or unbiased team member. The defendant and prosecutor are the roles played by the team member closest to each brand, product, or design group. The best part? Each side will bring in their own relevant consumers as witnesses. Have fun with it and don’t forget a note-taker to capture the intense insights you will uncover.
2. Insights ambassadors
We all know the concept of Brand Ambassadors — try Insights Ambassadors. Instead of having your consumers promote your product, have your own consumers collect and deliver back to your team ground-level insights that are raw and unfiltered. What they choose to bring forward may astound you.
3. Insights in your ear
What about a consumer-closeness podcast for your internal team? Create a podcast series to listen to consumer testimonials, complaints, or praise. Everyone will hear and can determine on their own exactly what is working and what can be improved. Listening to podcasts is a great way to enable your busiest stakeholders to listen to feedback and insights on their commutes or at the gym — who has time for a 60 page report anymore?!
4. Scavenger hunt
Create a consumer-closeness scavenger hunt for your internal team. Find and talk to a Dad that packs his kids’ organic lunches? A Millennial that prefers the slower pace of sit down dining? Each team member must complete X-number of the tasks with your consumers as the entrance fee to the next meeting. Or to earn the spot to present their findings and suggestions based on their learnings.
5. Petting zoo
Create a “petting zoo” for your consumer. Within this zoo, place your packing design iterations, your new and existing products, or a few of your latest marketing materials. Let your consumers walk about and taste/feel/experience everything on their own as your team observes. Your team member with the best poker face? Add them to the mix pretending to be another “petting-zoo” visitor for a closer observation of how everyone is interacting with the ‘exhibits’. Don’t forget to give everyone a review card to talk about their favorite and least favorite exhibits at the zoo.
6. Snack wrapper collage
How much and on what do we snack on every day? I bet we can’t even keep track! Gamify insights through a sweepstakes with your customers to find out. Have customers create a collage from wrappers, boxes, and packages of all the different foods they consume within a week. They could submit their collages for a chance to win a sweepstakes and for you to get a peek of their real grocery basket. This is a fun way to gather insights on consumption, while creating a visual deliverable to share across your team.
7. Pop up convos
In a world where we are intensely connected, it’s easier than ever to find a customer who is willing to sit down for a coffee chat. Nimbly has used social apps such as Tinder, Couchsurfing.org, Shapr, and Meetup.com to organize casual chats. For example, Couchsurfing.org has a community page dedicated to connecting locals through events, advice, or discussions. You could set up shop at a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop and make a post on a community page to invite people to come meet you there for a chat about X topic. Sweeten the deal by offering food and drink on you!
Outside-the-box research ideas can cost little to implement, and no company is too big or too small to adopt a consumer closeness program. What fresh consumer research ideas can you come up with?
To help you out, click here to download Nimbly’s Little Card of Big Questions to jumpstart a creative interview with any person. And for further consumer discovery work, know that Nimbly is on standby to be your thought partner. We love to execute big innovative projects or just call us to jam on ideas, no strings attached.