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Design Thinking in Procter & Gamble December 7, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Design Thinking.
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The ethnographic market research described reminds me of some market research methodologies I learned in Procter & Gamble. While we did numerous focus group and quantitative researches, the most striking experiences have always been experiential research: shop with shoppers, home visits, and field work, i.e., live with the consumers for a period of time. The latter experiential approach works especially well when the designers/marketers/researchers folks have little information about their target consumers/shoppers. How could the brand workers imagine what consumers really need without ever talking to them directly? Only through humility, open-minded observation and conversation with consumers could designers/marketers/researchers put themselves into consumer’s shoes and generate great insights. One famous example is Tides’ launch plan in China rural areas. The market research manager spent one week living with consumers in tier-3 cities and observe them washing clothes. He found the living situation in rural area is dramatically different from that in the cities: people don’t have washing machines and generally wash dirty cloths outside of their homes. The marketing claim of product functional efficacy is less concerned by those consumers than product convenience. The manager came back with a simple but great suggestion: changing the Tides package from 2-liter bottles to half liter bags and smaller-size trail packs. Marketing communication was then changed from superior cleaning to ease-of-use. This dramatically increased the trial rate and successfully boosted Tides’ market share in tier-3 cities.

In a large part, product marketing in CPG companies are a lot like design work. It requires all the process from observations and frameworks to discover consumer unmet needs, to imperatives and solutions to determine product offerings and marketing angles. The framework provided by the article “Innovation as Learning Process” also reflects some of my working experiences with cross-functional team. When facing conflicts or disagreements among our team members, I used to thinking that those were primarily from different objectives of various functional members and personal styles. But now in hind sights, the conflicts should have a lot to do with the different ways of learning processes. Now I am even more appreciate of the company culture of P&G: encouraging teamwork, diversity, respect different background and thinking logic. This culture implicitly generates a constructive environment for innovation.

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