Get creative

In the Web 2.0 age, the world of designing and selling new products is changing and a new project wants to involve working mums in the creative process. Mandy Garner finds out more.

Fancy getting a bit creative? Want to influence the design of future products? Well, working mums could be just the group that a new co-creation website is looking for.
Women are estimated to be responsible for 80% of consumer decisions. Mums influence heavily what the family buys and what their children buy, particularly when they are younger. Moreover, working mums are likely to have more disposable income. It therefore seems a bit of a no-brainer not to find out what they think about the products that are on offer and the products that will be on the shelves in years to come. 
Mindbubble.co.uk goes further than this, though. It seeks to actively involve women aged 25 to 50 in creating the products and the way they are marketed. Set up by online creative development company FACE, it is based on a project called Headbox.com which began around four years ago and is aimed at younger people. It works with major companies including Unilever.
Job Muscroft, managing director of FACE, says the company is now turning its attentions on women because not only are they major consumers, but they are also more and more likely to be connecting with each other via social networking sites. This opens up a huge range of possibilities for working with them online to shape new products.
“Communications has changed radically in the last five years, not just for the youth market who were at the vanguard of 2.0 applications," he says. "This has now migrated through the generations and more and more women are using the internet for shopping, but also for communication. There has been a huge growth in women’s use of sites like Facebook."
 
Signing up
Mindbubble works by women signing up to take part. They fill in some basic details and can develop their profile. They are then matched up with projects that suit their profile and may be asked more questions about the kind of products they buy already and about their attitude to certain brands. They can choose to take part or not. Some projects will involve taking part in online fora, which might be a one-off just for an hour or so or might involve taking part on an ongoing basis. Others involve taking part in face to face workshops over a day or two.
Mindbubble pay around £150 for attending a day’s workshop and also provide childcare, if necessary. Other ways people can get involved is through doing blogs or video diaries about their ideas about certain products and their marketing. The beauty of online working, says Muscroft, is that it means focus groups can be held at times that suit working mums, such as after the children are in bed, rather than just after work which, as working mums know, is often the worst time possible.
Muscroft is particularly keen to attract working mums. He says they tend to have a lot of life experience and many are well educated and have experience in a range of jobs. In some cases they are working in jobs they have been in for years and may not find challenging and creative. “Mindbubble gives them the chance to use their talents,” says Muscroft.
The project was launched last month after a pilot phase. Anyone can register and already they have a few thousand signed up and are working with several big companies like Boots and GlaxoSmithKline. There are confidentiality clauses if people are working on new products and focus groups are usually kept to controlled numbers with research and brand experts on hand to mediate. Because most of the work is done online, the company can recruit from across the country so their market research is very geographically representative.
 
Lynx
Muscroft says one of the projects Headbox was involved with is the 2010 relauch of Lynx deodorant. The focus group members not only influenced how the relaunch will be communicated, but also its name and even its smell. Mindbubble has a number of products in the pipeline over the next six to 12 months, including a range of Boots products and some Unilever laundry products.
The company is also looking at new ways of communicating messages about products and capitalising on its focus group members’ use of social networking and the kind of more personal messages that they use to engage consumers. “It is more about having an ongoing conversation wtih consumers rather than just selling them a new product,” he says. “The brightest brands are focusing first on engaging consumers and then telling them about products as and when they come up.”





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