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Dag Piper - Co-Creating with Consumers

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Dag is an Inspiring trilingual leader at the interface of Marketing and R&D, loving Innovation, trends and insights, networking, design thinking, and social media. Dag has more than 20 years of experience in B2B and B2C context. Dag is a lecturer at different Universities and an international Conference speaker on Innovation, Trends and consumer behaviour in the digital age.

Transcript (Semi-automated, forgive typos!)

John: So, Dag, thanks a lot for being on the show today.

Dag: Hi. Thank you. Thank you.

John: So something that I know we're both very interested in and I know you have a lot of talk about with regard to its digital marketing and of course, this is a really digital market research more generally, that it's a really hot topic right now because of coronavirus is forcing everything online. And so I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on, not only just what are the opportunities for a kind of digital market research right now, but what do you see as some of the limitations and some of the pitfalls people might be running into as they're basically being forced to take all of their research online?

Dag: Very good question, John. Thank you. We have to start. I would say that there's a strong belief for the moment and specifically, as you say, it is really gathering speed in terms of coronavirus context. So everybody thinks, okay, I have to put my market research, my consumer research online, and then it's done. So everything I did before in the analog age, I do it now in the digital age and it will be fine. I think there are two major pitfalls you have to be careful with. First of all, specifically coming from the FMMG and TR, more from the flavor and the food industry, for sure they are senses, that senses you have to think about. And this says the smell and the taste. And for sure, testing digitally, taste and smell preference is quite difficult. It sounds obvious, but very often it's understood. Underestimated and forgotten in this context, because you do make a test and you make concept test. You make product tests. You can test some, yes, but we all know that flavor and smell preferences are extremely at 90% important for the second by weight. Not the first by weight. But the second by weight. The second point, which is extremely important, which is highly underestimated I see today, and many agencies and many tools I could observe specifically emerging in the last weeks and months is anything regarding the internal and external validity. In consumer research and market research context, what does it mean? Internal validity means that you are really focusing on the test situation. So we really make sure that the test is under control. The external validity means it's very close to reality. So what I see for the moment in terms of digital testing, it's very strongly to the internal and less to the external. So I'm missing creativity if you want to. I'm missing a lot of creativity and really looking into this and not only saying, you know, but I'm also doing no digital testing. I'm doing digital research, and it's good just for the sake of being digital, it won't help you to get consumer understanding. And it's very often quantitative. So it's very data-driven. So what are really the implicit needs you are looking after? You want to understand what they see. What are the pinpoints of the consumer on the consumer journey? I don't see that much today. I see very silent thinking, very strong silent thinking in many agencies. They're really thinking this is a test for this product. This is a test as an R&D test that the marketing test. It's not at all consumer-focused. It's not at all a consumer journey focus. And I would really love to see a little more curiosity and creativity in this.

John: Interesting. Okay, so that's much a direction to go in response to that. So let me just ask you. Okay, first off, I'd like to know what your kind of ideal research direction would be, you know, and to what extent does that line up with the current limitations on testing, given that we can't necessarily bring people together? This is the way we would once upon a time. How impacted do you think the type of research that you would like to do is by the current crisis?

Dag: Very good point, John. For sure that's in an ideal world. I would say in an ideal world, what I would love to have, which is already starting in some agencies I see today, is what I called a phygital testing. Phygital means physical and digital. So you can call it high, but it's easier to express. But phygital is like sentence of new wordings. And I would say this as well in different contexts. So I call it phygital. So what does it mean? It means that you take the beauty of both sides. And I saw a very good test in this respect where this has been combined. Let me give an example. In fact. But you can do. Let's say we test a new tomato soup in corona times. Well, for sure, you cannot bring consumers in because of all these limitations and everything, which is not possible today. What you can do, you can send test samples at home and with a very, very clear agenda. Consumers are very good in measuring not only the objective, but as well their subjective impression of the products based on the questionnaire. You can zoom in as the interview and people get more and more used as well, which was has been impossible, I would say, two or three months ago, that consumers so easy in using this kind of Skype, face time or Zoom or team from Microsoft. So they are used to it. So it's it's somehow natural. And I think that's extremely important that you really stay close to the natural situation of consuming a tomato soup and you can really help people how this should be designed. So how they should prepare the soup, what they should do, in which context they should eat it. Then you have the one side, which is a physical part, the digital part. And this is you can screen with AI with deep learning, all the data around tomato soup. There are fantastic agencies running around doing a great job there. Forgetting a little bit the physical part. So if you take these two parts plus you have I've seen it was fantastic. They have designed a fantastic online community. So they have brought the different consumers together on a platform for four weeks. And it was like a four weeks focus group. I still remember that stupid Folkmoot scoops in the 80's where people are doing coffee, eat, biscuits, but didn't give any value. So this kind of online communities is just amazing because it's a high engagement of people. They interact, they give ideas, they help you to give an intuition of the prototype. So they say very simple. It's a little bit too spicy. The simpler I don't like the wet, the texture is quite difficult. And in preparing the product, I have this and this issue and then it can be a very strong and that's what they've done. They took the digital intuition of the people on the online community, modified the product and brought it back to the consumer. So everything happened in four weeks and then four weeks and four intuition of the product. So the product designers, the UX designers, everyone works together. The Flavorist and the product developers and on four weeks, they got the final product done. And this was amazing. I think this is somehow, even after corona, the future of consumer research.

John: Yes. No, I think that's really interesting, the question of like, okay, it's a serious situation right now. So I've tried not to be too optimistic, but I do think there are a lot of good things happening right now. You know, I mean, it sounds strange to say that when you've got, you know, old folks homes with pretty serious, you know, mortality rates and whatnot. But like in that, you step back and you just look at it objectively as a scientist, the fact that people are getting used to being, you know, doing online interviews is a huge thing. In fact, it's probably going to create jobs for people doing your interviews. So you'll need I mean, obviously, you know, our company works on smart speakers trying to, like bring quantum call together. But I actually think that it's the face to face interviews online or the focus groups online are huge opportunity. And I also think the fact that you don't have to bring people in means that we get to have a more diverse population such as the people who can physically come to your site during the workday. Right now, who are involved in these tests? So what are some of the other opportunities that you see there kind of opening up now as some you know, we're being kind of catapulted forward into a new technology, a technological age. I think, you know, that we're being forced forward. What are some of the other opportunities that you see kind of emerging from this coronavirus crisis?

Dag: I think what I think up I was somehow or the. It's a crisis. Yes. The corona situation is a catalyst for many things. I think it's a catalyst for bad business models to die quicker. Yeah, it's the fact is, you look for a piano, for example, a huge noodle chain in Europe. They were already in very bad financial shape. And they in fact, they got bankrupt in the first two weeks of corona. So it was somehow they couldn't survive this situation. So there as well some kind of catalyst in this situation. On the other hand, I think coming back to the market research part, I mean, I'm a strong believer in creativity. I'm a strong believer in creativity. And many people who think they are not creative and they are wrong. Everyone is creative, but in a different form. Let me give you two examples, and that fantastic agency in Berlin that called Yuboto. And, Yuboto they have 150,000 creatives in the world you can access. And I think what you should do is really you should combine different modules in terms of market research and these modules in tap in depending on where you are in your journey of your research. So in very early stage, you need the creatives. You won't find them directly in your classically consumer database because they have to be split-screen that you have to understand, okay, where are they created? Because they are people might be very creative in designing new cause, but they might be very bad in tomato soup creation. And if you find these people in the very early stage of the research, then you can say a lot of time because how often and time and money? Because how often I have seen researchers bringing a very bad product at the end because they used the wrong two words at the wrong time. So you have to really to design in a very different way. The research today taking to account that digital can help you to access quickly in out people. And then you can have this design not only for I still remember times of six months, researchers with everything. Today, it's much, much quicker. This is from the second one, which is extremely important for me, is how can you access people before a specific filter? I'm a strong believer in filter people. What does it mean? Everybody has a filter. So filter means you are more competent in seeing very small differences in products. For example, I have strong filters for cars. I have a strong for specific for BWS, an old beat twenty three BWS. And as well for clothing's. For example where my wife would say, okay, there's a blue kind of wet car before wheels. I would already find between these two cars at least 15 differences on the wheels. And if you can detect and find these filters of people, then you are much stronger in combining these guys with the creatives where in fact, you should focus on from the hardcore users of the product to in fact, you come into the research and then give their opinion. And then if you have an interaction, a Ping-Pong game between creatives and filter people and normally consumers. And if these sweet groups play a role and it's amazing, I saw amazing results.

John: Now, that is fascinating. Yeah. And of course, technology is facilitating these interactions. It's easier to bring everybody together and find these people. So it's, yeah, that's very nice.

Dag: And you find the UX designer in between, who are designing for you, for example, on VR, bringing you in a specific situation and then coming back to what I said in the beginning, how can I combine Fujitsu, you smile because you're avoiding. It's not an English at all I think, and what you can do and what I have done with an agency called Easy Gain behind Germany, then they conduct VR, where they bring consumer into a specific mood in a situation, for example, you see a beach. You have the sound of a beach and then you get smell. That's an olfactometer under the VR eyeglasses where brings you smell. And you can say what a sea white fragrance adapted to some milk in specific situations. So if you aren't caught, you can see that you have a family of your friend or you are playing volleyball or beach ball or whatever. And every time there's a stimulus from the olfactometer bringing you the smell of a sand milk and you can directly play of it as if you are feeling being in the situation and you can even add the temperature because you can put people in Kobe and boothies, this is a weird name, I think. In boothies where you can influence the temperature. So you're at 30 degrees. You start to sweat. You have to situation, you are playing somehow beach volleyball. And then there's the smell of sand milk, sweet, different smells of sunblock. Imagine how strong this is. And you don't need. And you can even go with your feet on with a scent. So how realistic a situation can be already in a consumer mood to be close to reality and to measure the external validity and I love this. All you could made what they have done to bring people on a beach as well. And you can give them sweet different beers or BMX drinks or whatever. How strong is this? And you can really measure very closely where you need to go.

John: It's fascinating. What I also find it in technology is a chance to potentially run these kind, to go to the other end, to go to the actual beach and to have data collection devices that people can use to evaluate products on the beach in real-time. And it's just going to with wearable technology. You're just going to see more and more of that. Right. That there were. It isn't just a question of phones. You're going to have smart speakers inside glasses. You're gonna have that the earbuds that people will be able to respond to. Yeah. Yeah. The glasses. I mean, Google Glass. I don't know if you'll get this joke, but in America, when Google Glass was first attempted, they call the people who wore them. Glassholes. It is use to shame that people wearing Google Glass. But I think that technology is coming back. I mean, I don't think the world is really ready for that level of people having cameras.

Dag: If I can ask you a question back. Did you see the snapshot glasses?

John: No,I haven't.

Dag: The snapshot glasses came I think two or three years ago. So just after the Google Glass, when the Google glasses failed. And then they made a great, good story about this because what they did. They did it in context to this network. So, in fact, they ask people, okay, what are you doing in terms of a typical research as well? What are you doing with your glass, your glasses? What how do you use them? How would you use them? For sure it was a marketing joke. And they sold them to companies for specific, bigger conferences kind of stuff. It was never intended to be the breaks with technology, but they wanted to test how all you said is a consumer-ready for it or not. Yeah, this was fun because the design was quite nice and black and yellow and everybody knew wow, this is cool. And if you find something if this does take a pic and took it for sure or snap.

John: Right. So they meant they did the change man.

Dag: Yes. Fantastic. Fantastic idea.

John: That is interesting. Yeah. I mean, it is interesting. Think about decentralization in general. I mean, I see that as a theme of the fourth industrial revolution. The things are getting decentralized. And we're talking about the decentralized interviews. Right? That you now can do interviews in people's homes or you can collect data at the beach. Drones, of course, are going to play a big role on that as you have product. Now you're going to have physical things getting decentralized that you won't have to come. You won't have to send somebody out with a product to people's homes. The drones will bring the products out. So, I mean, it is this really exciting time. Maybe we should talk about what is potentially missing, though. Like, you talked a little bit at the beginning in terms of pitfalls, but what are the things we really have to be careful about? I mean, as we get excited with all this new technology, how can we really get ourselves into trouble if we care?

Dag: Okay, so. I am someone who is extremely positive and always, always thinking positive, and I always I'm most curious about new things and I try to avoid to be too much holding back in terms of pitfalls. You have to think about this. I think the drastic example of how it should not be is everything regarding the social credit system in China for the future. So whatever you might think about for sure, we are coming from a Western perspective. If I talk to my Chinese friends, they have a very different point of view, because specifically in terms of corona now. They say thanks to this, we are much better in control. Why I'm mentioning it, I mentioning it is because I can speak for Europe specifically. It might be different. You can give me your perspective from the US. But I can see it in Europe very strong, the data protection. People get educated by our government for extreme data protection. So whatever you whatever you do, it's even that. So I'm a little bit critical. I liked data protection. Yes. I like to protect my data. Yes. But to a certain limit. The funny thing is I got a nice SUP (stand up paddling)from a sporting company. And there was one piece missing and I was writing to them to the hotline saying, hey, it was a chat. Hi. That's one piece missing. Can you send it to me? They wrote me back. Sorry, I cannot answer you. I'm not allowed to answer you because you have to first send me this sentence back that I'm allowed to answer you. So I think that, yes, it's quite OK. So you have to take this into your account if you do consumer research. What are the different pitworth? What are you allowed to ask? What tools are you allowed to use and what are you doing with the data? And are you an anonymous data or do you kind of get back to the people? And I think this is a very, very crucial part in Europe, which will still exist in the upcoming months and years because data protection is higher than higher. And we I've seen what's happening with all the leakages in Facebook and so on. There was a huge story in Germany for sure, when suddenly, suddenly data disappeared in some strange channels. And you find suddenly you have your credit card numbers on a pawn hub just because you have bought something on Instagram. It's not nice. So therefore, yes, protection is important, but we have to see, Okay, where can be a little bit more open and moderate in order to allow products to be better. And perhaps a second point on this one is extremely positive on and I think it's exactly the right thing. What have you done the last years? The last years what we have done is we have created products perhaps of market research, but we produced products, nice products, nice packaging, nice concepts. And then we spent millions in advertising in all to sell it. And I don't think that's the right way. Wouldn't it be nice that you just put it the other way around that we say we could create products with the consumers? They love it. They want it. And we don't need advertising anymore. It's some it might sound a little bit idealistic, but I think that's a lot of examples already existing where people do it. And I can perfectly imagine I've done two prototype researchers in mass to do it, to show that it works in terms of chocolate bars so that people can create cool, create their own chocolate bar together with creatives, together with designers, with product developers. And then there's, oh, I want this product, where can I get it? And then suddenly you don't need advertising and you don't need to tell them, yeah, you know, it's 99 cents only. It's very cheap. No, they want it and they are happy to pay extra price. And then you're coming to a complete range of premium products.

John: Yeah, that's really interesting. That reminds me of when it comes to design principles. Right. If you're designing something, there's always the change management where the more that you can involve the user is building an interface, for example, dashboard and rebuilt dashboards are coming. We always want to involve the people who are going to use the tool in the creation of the tool. They feel a sense of ownership and then they're excited to use it. And when something goes wrong with the tool, they're not critical. They like to work with you to make, you know, to fix it. Right? So it's the same way. That's very interesting. It's kind of design-based thinking me brought to advertise or product creation that you won't need to advertise because people feel some sense of ownership. Yeah

Dag: Well, you called it differently. You just called engagement.

John: Yeah, I read a book last year. I'm trying to remember the name of it, it's talking about this as this, like Lego's, for example, have reached out to their adult users of Lego's and they have huge interaction with their community. And as a result, they get it. I think a lot of ideas from their conferences where adult users come and they talk about what they want and whatever, and then they're happy to to buy the product. We have a smart speaker going on. Your dad cleaning the room.

Dag: I'm so sorry. This is technology today, you know this is technology today.

John: Invasive side of it all. But now I think that's a really deep point that you're making. Definitely. I mean, it's kind of a yeah, it it gets back to the idea of decentralization, the idea that a lot. I see this is a theme with technology that things that are we used to think of as binary either or they're getting blurred, they're getting combined the idea of the consumer and the creator. I think that's, yeah, that's exciting. Okay, we are actually almost out of time. So I think it would be a good question to kind of wrap things up here. First off to any last piece of wisdom you'd like to share with our audience.

Dag: I think we discussed before the podcast a little bit about, okay, what would I recommend to young people, to young scientists or people wanting to go into a consumer research market? I like this question because I do a lot of coaching and mentoring as well for young people. You know, people watching the master tease us and be able to love me. I think that two things which are extremely important for me. First, be curious about everything. Just get everything from different channels. And don't only follow your professor and your studies. It's not enough anymore. And make sure that you get as well the training's coming from platforms like you would any from ADX and really make a deep dive into Ted talks. I think in not more than three years, the first graduates will come from Udemy and from Tech. So you won't go into a physical university anymore because it's just merging to get it. And I think in terms of personal development, you're much stronger and based on TED talks, then whatever you're getting universities today. They are getting online as well. And in fact, we had a different style. So the professors are sitting in the university at home as well. So I think there's this is a merger between both of them. And I'm a strong fan of the Udemy doing a lot of trading, lot of lessons the way I continue to learn on a daily basis. That's fantastic.

John: Yeah, that's right. I use Coursera a lot. These resources are definitely available. And I do think there is a bit of a reckoning coming for higher education, at least in America. In Germany, I believe your higher education is covered by the state. I mean, as far as I understand it, here in America, it's fantastically expensive with, you know, people getting into huge debt to go. And it's a question, what do you even get when honestly, like, who would I hire as a business owner? Right? Would I hire? So what do I care more about a four year degree or whether or not someone can write code that's useful and help, right? I don't care at all. So you know what. Yeah. What they get. What they know. Well, yeah. Even even not just see what they know, but their ability to manage new information as it comes.

Dag: I read a number from from Google. I don't think it's I don't know if it's global or it's just for the US. Thirty percent of the staff they hired in the last two years where we didn't have any university degree. They were just, as you said, Kodos or just specific freaks coming from startup community testing in a positive sense. So I'm a big fan of Freaks because they did things, they dare to be different.

John: Right. Very interesting. Okay, that is great, Dag. So if one of our listeners are or several of our listeners will be interested to connect with you or to reach out to you. How can they find you? Where are the channels through which they can reach?

Dag: If you want to follow me, you can follow me on Twitter, it's @bugdag. You can find me, if my name you can find me easily or just Google my name. And on LinkedIn where I'm publishing a lot of stuff. Or the third thing might be on the It's our new page. And every Tuesday, every Thursday at 6 o'clock, 6 p.m. German time. We are doing a lot of training on YouTube talking about the future.

John: Fascinating. Okay, great. And we'll put those links in the show.

Dag: Thank you so much.

John: Yes. This is really fantastic, Dag. Thank you very much for your many insights. It's really very interesting for me.

Dag: Thank you, John.

John: Okay. That's it. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you did, please help us grow our audience by telling your friend about AigoraCast and leaving us a positive review on iTunes.


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