Talking co-creation, with insight director Tom Kenyon

Tom Kenyon

Tom Kenyon is the Director of Insight, Innovation and Strategy at the world’s leading co-creation agency, Latimer Group. With a background in innovation strategy for major broadcasters and non-profits organisations, Tom has developed award-winning digital campaigns for the BBC, Jamie Oliver, Channel 4 and ITV, and has recently headed up a multi-million pound programme on digital innovation in education for UK Think Tank, Nesta.

On why we’re seeing a need for co-creation…
“The agency world has traditionally been built on the idea of the rock star creative – the Don Draper figure crafting perfect broadcast moments. But the truth is, unless it’s the John Lewis Christmas ad or a Superbowl spot, broadcast moments reach fewer and fewer people. In a world of distinct audiences projecting different personalities on multiple platforms, Don Draper cannot save you. Young people in particular want content that doesn’t feel like broadcast; content that is relevant to their specific context, needs and interests. Co-creation offers a route to achieving that. Content by the audience, for the audience. This is why smart brands are moving towards more inclusive creative strategies.”

Don Draper

On how co-creation isn’t just for young audiences…
“Millennials and Gen Z have never had to ask permission to be published. Creating video and photo content is as natural for them as writing. Equally, brands have always had direct channels of communication – there is an expectation of open access. Co-creation could be seen as a response to these trends. However, it would be a mistake to think that co-creation only works for younger audiences. There has been a lot of work in public services such as Nesta’s People Powered Health programme that shows co-design and co-creation techniques can be an effective way to work with any audience that needs communication to meet their distinct needs.”

On a future where co-creation is ubiquitous…
“Co-creation is a symptom of wider trends (led by technology) towards inclusiveness, open-ness, disintermediation, transparency and hyper-targeted content. In the future if a brand’s messages and personality are built behind closed doors, people are going to wonder why. It will be understood that part of your brand message is going to be one of exclusion. And before anyone counters this with the old Steve Jobs quote that ‘People don’t know what they want until you show it to them’, bear in mind that (a) the Apple Store design was absolutely based on a co-creation process, and (b) Android’s open system has 85% of the international market share.”

Steve Jobs

On being ‘part of the conversation’…
“We are living in an age where brand identities are more in the hands of consumers than ever before. You can craft a public image and brand message as much you want – if the right influencer re-mixes your ad or goes viral with a comment, that becomes your brand identity. The only way to keep on top of that is to be part of the conversation (rather than lead it) and, increasingly, to have values or a purpose that is wider than the product itself.”

“We are living in an age where brand identities are
more in the hands of consumers than ever before.”

Talking co-creation, with industry expert Mark Baxter

mark baxter

Currently a managing partner at boutique growth consultancy Fika, Mark Baxter started his career at Procter & Gamble and has gone on to hold positions such as Head of Marketing & Strategy and Head of Global Strategic Category Marketing at Tesco. Having worked with a wealth of major international FMCG brands, he is an expert in the fields of commercial strategy, marketing, pricing, customer loyalty, digital and product launch.

On how co-creation means getting back to basics…
There is a push by customers for brands to be clearer (and more transparent). The market is shifting and consumers are demanding more from their products; it will be interesting to see how the established brands compete. Co-creation, simply put, is understanding who you are as a brand, creating products that you love and want to use, sticking to your principles and having conversations with your advocates. It’s a democratic approach to marketing and product development. It’s how brands originally evolved.

Locally sourced food product

On the consumer trends that are driving the co-creation shift…
Supermarkets are favouring private label and customers are favouring local brands – avoiding global markets and looking to protect local communities, farmers and tradesmen. There’s a regenerated appreciation for local and trust and transparency sit at the heart of that. Customers want to associate with likeminded people who will listen to them. The issue for brands is how to compete in this post scale economy, the balance between giving customers what they are seeking and making these options cost effective. In the past five years, large global brands have lost share to small brands and start-ups in 77% of categories. Consumers crave unique and authentic brands that share their personal preferences and are researching and seeking out products rather than responding to traditional advertising. This erosion is happening in almost every consumer category.

On Mergers and Acquisitions vs. Research and Development…
M&A has replaced R&D in many large FMCG companies and it will be interesting to see if these large brands are able to preserve the quality and authenticity of their acquisitions. (A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money – particularly as many customers see propaganda replacing marketing.) The big question is whether its better (read easier and more profitable) to innovate or acquire. I think the balance is tipping, but the large FMCG companies are acquiring disrupter brands at a premium with the aim of competitive neutralisation. Going forward, those that develop this skill will obtain competitive advantage, which will drive growth and competitiveness. We’re not quite there yet but the time will come.

Supermarket shoppers

On the changing expectations of millennials and Gen Z…
They’re not loyal to brands, they’re loyal to principles and values – that’s why brands are hurting. They’re turning down high paid city and corporate jobs and are pursuing fulfilling careers. The opportunity is to tap into this, however if that isn’t your natural state as a brand, it can be perceived as disingenuous. Successful brands and companies need to become truly customer-centric, which means listening and having conversations. The challenge is how to to this at scale without diluting the ethos.

“The big question is whether it’s better (read easier
and more profitable) to innovate or acquire.”

Talking co-creation, with futurist Peter Firth

Peter Firth

Peter Firth is a consumer trends editor and brand consultant who has worked for the likes of M&S, Estee Lauder, Microsoft and Harrods. A regular commentator on television and in the national media, he has appeared on the BBC World Service, Bloomberg TV and in the pages of the Sunday Times Style, City AM and The Guardian.

On the rise of co-creation…
“Co-creation is already becoming the ‘norm’. A marketing manager is unlikely to understand as much about his or her audience as the audience themselves. Inviting members of a specific movement, social group or target audience in to work with the brand will always yield good results if the brand is willing to listen, and is coming from a place of integrity. If it is done well, there is no doubt that it closes the gap between the brand and the customer.”


On working with influencers…
“Brands are co-opting the talents, reach and influence of their audience in order to speak more appropriately to those that they want to connect with and sell to. I think that we are seeing this come to the fore significantly in brands that engage with the youth and Gen Z segments. A lot of work has been done in recent years of course with ‘influencer’ marketing. There are also compelling stories that brands can tell if they have been able to give a young struggling creative a leg up or more profile in a specific industry.”

On connecting to millennials…
“In today’s pious millennial collective consciousness we all like to think we are doing things for the cause, the spirit, the passion, rather than the money or status. Therefore you are dealing with people who don’t view themselves as consumers. They like to think of themselves as participants rather than recipients.”


On the power of peer-to-peer marketing…
“Who are people more likely to listen to: Unilever or Beyonce? People believe in other people more than they do in companies. If you look at how customer complaints are almost totally played out online and in the pubic sphere now through Twitter etc, the power balance is shifting in favour of consumers, as their voices are louder and more networked.”

“A marketing manager is unlikely to understand as
much about his or her audience as the audience themselves.”

CX marks the spot: How to retain 42% more customers by co-creating your customer experience

If you work in branding, the word ‘experiential’ has probably become firmly rooted in your everyday vernacular over the past five or so years. As consumers increasingly make judgements on products and services based on the experiences they offer, we have seen the emergence of an ‘experience economy’, where more and more brands are putting CX at the forefront of their thinking.

Heightened expectation

According to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. The reality is that modern consumers really do think about the experiences they are having. They expect more. They want digital experiences that are smooth and intuitive. Physical experiences that are tangible and emotive. They want retail experiences, travel experiences, dining experiences. They want all manner of brand experiences that leave them satisfied, preened and pleasured. In every way possible. So, what does this mean for brands? Ultimately, it means the bar is raised. It’s means thinking about the user-journey. It means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and really considering how your brand makes them feel. It means insight, feedback and data. It means a Customer Experience, or CX department.

Positive sharers

According to research firm ThinkJar, 13% of unsatisfied customers tell 15 or more people that they are unhappy. On the other hand, 72% of happy customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. Furthermore, 67% of customers cite poor experiences as a reason for not re-ordering a product, while only 1 in 26 actually complain. These stats point to two things: one, it’s hard to know how many unsatisfied customers you actually have; and two, improving your CX and motivating your customers is sure to bare fruit in terms of brand advocates and word-of-mouth marketing.

Why improve?

Despite the heightened focus on customer experience, a Forrester report states that between 2016 and 2017 no industry has made significant improvements in their CX efforts. Further to this,  the 2017 US Customer Experience Index gives no brands a score that rates in the excellent category. So, while brands are undoubtedly shifting their focus towards CX, user-journeys and UX, it seems they are still falling short. An Accenture report found that 89% of customers are still frustrated at having to repeat their issues to multiple representatives, while 87% of respondents felt brands need to put more effort into providing a more consistent experience. On the flip side,  Walker tells us that 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience, and that improvements to UX result in 33% more satisfied customers and a 42% customer retention rate.

The next step

In order to cash in, and create experiences that resonate with this new wave of CX-driven consumers, brands must change the way they look at customer experience all together. To truly understand the user-journey and find solutions that have meaning for real customers, brands need to collaborate with their audiences and co-create their products and services together.

Global delivery company DHL, used a combination of customer workshops and online communities to gather feedback and co-create solutions in order to improve their CX. A number of innovative solutions emerged from these workshops and online communities, resulting in customer satisfaction scores rising to 80%, according to Forbes. Similarly, online furniture company launched an online talent lab in which it collaborated with up and coming designers and invited its customers to vote on their favourites. The company also has an online community called Made Unboxed that allows customers to make recommendations to its designers about the things that have inspired them. The way empowers its customers to interact with the brand and dictate their own brand experiences is a refreshing example of co-created CX, and a sure-fire way to guarantee customer satisfaction.

CX success

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 50% of organisations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations, meaning mobile and digital experiences becoming more intuitive, more ubiquitous and even more ingrained in all brand communications and customer interactions. With mobile searches already generating 27.8 billion more queries than desktop searches, it’s clear that the smart brands must adapt their mobile and digital touch points, user journeys and customer experiences in order to meet the expectations of modern consumers.

CX Toolkit: Five steps to co-create your CX and ensure customer satisfaction…

  • Involve your audiences in constant conversations, gaining insights, feedback and ideas relating to their experiences of engaging with your brand.
  • Empower your customers be part of the decision-making process, allowing them to shape and co-create their own experiences.
  • Leverage technology that facilitates fluid and ongoing audience collaboration, giving your customers the access they need to give feedback on their brand experiences wherever and whenever they want.
  • Communicate the importance of co-created experiences in your messaging, shouting about how you place customer input and feedback at the heart of helping to shape your CX.
  • Be transparent, inviting your audience into the heart of your brand by being honest and open about how you formulate your CX. Transparency builds authenticity and trust.

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