Among the tools that marketers use to identify ideal target audiences and to enhance the effectiveness of products or services, leveraging consumer and market insights (C&MI) can be among the most invaluable. Uncovering these insights leads to improved understanding about unmet customer needs and opportunities to address those needs through product innovation.
At Lubrizol, we use C&MI to do just that—to help uncover unarticulated needs of consumers and then use our expertise and chemistry knowledge to augment technologies to meet consumer needs. For our customers, partnering with Lubrizol includes access to not only the chemical expertise for which we are know, but also consumer and market insights to help bring innovation faster and more effectively to the market. In this way, Lubrizol is helping customers help their customers.
Reaching Down the Value Chain
Consumer and marketing insights is not ‘voice of the customer’. Instead, it goes two or three steps down the value chain to explore the true needs of the consumer using the final product in its final form. This new approach is the vision of Eric Schnur, Lubrizol president and CEO. While it’s common practice for consumer-facing companies to have a strategic insights function, it’s relatively unusual for a B2B specialty chemical company. Over Mr. Schnur’s past two decades leading multiple varied business units, he recognized that Lubrizol could deliver additional value to customers by better understanding the markets and end users they serve. It used to be enough to focus on innovating great products, because ultimately, our customers market to end users. But, Lubrizol’s refreshed vision included the creation of strategic insights function to provide an even more valuable experience for customers.
A Fresh Set of Eyes
While every company has its own lens/filter or internal biases, the Lubrizol C&MI team provides a different perspective by looking at the consumer. What if a customer already has a market research team? There are times when that team may have constraints. Plus, some customers don’t have a market research function. Lubrizol acts as a fresh set of eyes.
As Lubrizol continues to become a more market-driven company, research and insight drive strategy. Lubrizol’s dedicated C&MI team is headed by senior research and marketing experts supported by market analysts, an economist and a library with syndicated research and technical data, plus market researchers who can analyze the wealth of information that’s been gathered.
Holistically, consumer and marketing insights is a broad-brush idea about better understanding the needs of the market, customers and end users/consumers to drive feedback into innovation and commercialization strategies. In practice, it’s using a suite of tools to uncover things that are unknown or underutilized and applying them to the business models. Lubrizol’s C&MI team continues building a toolbox for internal colleagues and customers to tap into and act as subject matter experts in those tools. The team collaborates to ask the right questions and define the scope of what matters, and then finds the right tools to help.
Quantitative and qualitative techniques to collect consumer and market insights include:
- Consumer ethnography—this involves becoming immersed into consumers’ situations, which can mean looking in their recycling bins and pantries, or travelling with them on errands. The goal is to capture what people might not intentionally say in a survey or focus group. Digital ethnographies can include consumers or professionals who upload videos of how they use products and provide feedback through an online diary.
- Focus groups—an industry standard where demographically diverse groups of people are assembled to participate in a guided discussion about a particular product or topic. Lubrizol also uses a variety of techniques in group settings – for early concept ideation to screening, to personification of key segments.
- Quantitative surveys—we use a wide variety of survey research techniques, depending on the key business questions. This can include price laddering to better understand the value of a particular product attribute, choice modeling to determine derived importance, or consumer segmentation to build need-state opportunities in specific markets.
- Syndicated research and expert interviews—Lubrizol also has tools to tap into a network of experts across most industry sectors and occupations.
With these techniques, just like any other tool, each has a best-use application to uncover insights and answers.
The C&MI Process
As an example of how the C&MI process works at Lubrizol, a member of the C&MI team is part of staff meetings. During business planning, they work to find gaps in information, develop project ideas and then work with the heads of businesses to prioritize projects based on resources. They then work with a marketing manager to understand the question that needs to be answered better and create a research brief before developing the actual research methodology. The result might be a presentation to share with a customer, working with a customer’s sales agent to launch a new product, producing updated marketing communications materials and more.
Case Study: Creating More Sustainable Snack Packaging
Lubrizol’s C&MI team was asked to analyze the performance coatings space in sustainability as it relates to single-use packaging in the snack industry. The request was to determine where there is waste in single-use packaging, and answer questions like: Why do people use this type of packaging? (it’s typically more expensive as single serve) How are they using it? In their consumption of it, do they recognize the amount of waste? What issues were they having with the packaging? What solutions did they have?
In this case, syndicated research was used to narrow the scope to single-use snack packaging. Digital ethnography was chosen to pre-qualify consumers before employing the consumer ethnography technique with in-home visits in three markets (Seattle, eco-focused; Atlanta, not recycling dense; Leeds United Kingdom, a bit of a mix).
From this research, analysts concluded that consumers (millennial moms) know they’re spending more and that there is waste, but they think they’re saving money by not buying more than they need and wasting food. For them, single servings are more efficient and worth the added expense.
To summarize the findings, Lubrizol built a conceptual model of six sources of waste consumers noticed in the purchase, use and disposal of single-serve snacks. Sources were split evenly between the packaging and its contents. Some additional findings included:
- Added waste—one participant said her van is full of wrappers, but feels she is helpless in resolving that issue and expects the food brands to fix it.
- Consumers tend to feel that if they are eating a healthy snack, the package should also be healthy, but that may not be the case.
- Many participants thought there could be improvements in the opening and re-sealing of the package.
- Across all three test markets, even the best intentioned, nobody really knew how to properly recycle.
Another key finding was the perception that a chemical company would not be able to make a dramatic change because there are too many players in the value chain. Recognizing this and looking at the issue on a broader perspective, it might not just be the material but also the entire cycle. Results will be shared with others in the packaging arena to come up with new solutions.
The Benefits of C&MI
The key benefit of leveraging consumer and market insights is to make Lubrizol a better partner to our customers. We seek to use these tools and techniques in our product and innovation planning, and then activate the results into our business strategies. We recognize that for C&MI to be most effective, there has to be accountability to use the findings…if insights are not used, there’s no sense in spending the time or money. We are using C&MI to help prioritize projects to achieve our growth goals and our customers’ growth goals, while building stronger relationships with our customers by helping them delight their customers. We are proud to be able to bring this vision of our strategic insights function to provide an even more valuable experience for our customers.