Coca-Cola, the global beverages giant, opted for a co-creation experiment with customers to ensure its product innovation strategy reflected the true tastes of Southeast Asia.

Product innovation can be a fraught business. Working with Kantar to stay ahead of the curve, Coca-Cola looked at developing an agile design thinking innovation protocol to identify products that would create a clear impact in the market, according to Irene Joshy, Kantar’s regional director of qualitative insights.

“…The world is changing. Consumers are changing. It is very difficult to keep (and) to hold people’s attention,” said Andrea Bracho Poirier, manager of marketing and commercial insights at Coca-Cola in South East Asia at the QUAL360 APAC conference in Singapore. (Read WARC's in-depth report here: How Coca-Cola worked with customers to innovate new products).

Innovations are not always happening in boardrooms or on retail shelves anymore – in South East Asia, they are happening in cafés, on the streets, in hawker centres, and with local competitors.

“It becomes harder and harder and harder to connect to people and understand what they need… It forces you to disrupt, it forces you to push boundaries, to be on the lookout for going to mass market faster, and qualifying things in smarter ways,” she said.

The team worked with ‘pro-sumers’ – “people who can produce with you, or co create with you” – to co-create using real consumer tensions and opportunities. This included verifying, clarifying and prototyping for segments based on need gaps.

Renting a popular local café – fondly referred to by the team as the ‘Proto Lab on Wheels – Coke’s R&D team came prepared with a “kit of things that they can play with” while real consumers experienced the products. According to Poirier, the journey of “creating a product that really suited consumer needs” has been gratifying so far: “It was true co-creation in the true sense of the word.”

While she could not reveal which categories the co-creations were for, nor the specific markets for confidentiality reasons, the products are performing well in tests “at the concept stage”.

“For the products we have co-designed with the consumers, six out of seven that we designed made it to a win against the key market leader (at the testing stage), which is very good in the consideration of other designs that we have done,” said Poirier.

Sourced from WARC