Three methods used by Heinz to boost consumer involvement


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Every company wants to reach as many people as possible. Theoretically, we all know what it takes to attain that goal: relevance. Building and maintaining relevance enables a company to reach growing numbers of people in the long term. The real problem is how to achieve that relevance: when is a company relevant? Most companies struggle with this concept. One of the techniques used to solve the conundrum is connecting with consumers. Consumers who are given the chance to help write and construct the content are more likely to consider that content relevant.

Heinz Holland is well aware of this fact. In recent months, the company has been investing more and more in projects with a higher degree of consumer involvement. In this post I’d like to discuss three practical examples of this philosophy.

Case 1: Launch of a new dispensing cap

Several months ago, Heinz launched a new dispensing cap for their Tomato Ketchup squeezy bottle. The difference with the previous packaging is in the dispensing method. The new cap supposedly allows consumers to squeeze ketchup onto their plates with more precision. Since such an advantage can be very hard to prove through traditional communication channels, Heinz enlisted the consumer’s help in launching the new cap. A squeeze bottle with both an old and a new cap was delivered to the homes of 57 – obviously Heinz’s favourite number – Facebook fans so they could experience the difference firsthand and give Heinz and other Facebook fans valuable feedback. The lucky 57 were also invited to make their own digital artwork using a virtual bottle. The results were posted on the Heinz fan page so everyone could experience the new dispensing cap online. The best designs were rewarded with a fun prize. Since consumers could try the new cap both in the online and offline world, the difference with the old cap was instantly noticeable.

Case 2: Make your own label

Everyone knows consumers love to personalise stuff. Just think of mobile phones: thanks to apps no two mobile phones are the same. It’s just what people like. Heinz came up with a new initiative to ride this trend. From now on, consumers can personalise their ketchup bottle by making up their own text for the label. It’s a fun way to surprise, congratulate or thank someone. The initiative is called ‘Say it with a bottle’. The personalised bottles come in a nice packaging and they look like just the thing to give to a friend as a present. Bringing personalised bottles to the barbecue this summer: great idea, isn’t it?

For Heinz, this isn’t a one-off but an exclusive tool that is now permanently available to Heinz’s Facebook fans.

Case 3: A foodies community

The third case doesn’t involve an actual campaign but a structural adjustment of Heinz’s marketing and innovation processes. The brand built a community of some 150 foodies. All of them are interested in food industry trends and innovations and they share their findings with Heinz. Their photos, videos and interviews keep Heinz abreast of the latest trends in the world of gastronomy. These findings lead to new product ideas and concepts. This is the first time Heinz has engaged in structural collaboration with consumers.


Getting customers involved calls for a new way of thinking and different processes.

In ‘The Conversation Company’ I make a strong case for involving customers in the decision-making process. To me, structural customer involvement in making company policy is the ultimate form of customer-centric thinking.

Of course, this is not easy by any means. It takes a different way of thinking and a different way of rolling out processes. It will be extremely hard to involve the customer in every aspect right from the word go.

Pilots are a very useful learning tool with regard to collaboration. These three cases are excellent examples of collaboration pilots. In the next step, consumers will need to be involved in the policy-making process more closely and more often.

I recently conducted a study on the philosophy of structural collaboration among 15 C-level people. The study identifies five crucial dimensions in making this new way of thinking a success:

  1. Choose pilots that fit in with the existing culture. Don’t try to change everything at once with the first project. On the contrary, it’s better to go for something that fits in seamlessly with the existing culture.
  2. Select the right consumers. Select consumers with a positive attitude towards your company and a certain degree of expertise in the industry. My advice is to find a number of innovators and supplement the group with early adopters.
  3. Active C-level involvement. Without direct involvement from top management it is hard to make the transition from fun one-off cases to structural collaboration.
  4. An internal impact is not enough, you also need an external impact. Collaboration projects often start off as low-key projects inside the organisation. An external component is indispensable if you’re going to make faster progress.
  5. Measure the impact: determine your objectives beforehand and make sure you can measure them both during and after the project. You will learn a lot this way and it will give you solid arguments to present to your organisation.

Click here for all details regarding this study

Can you think of any other fun examples of brands that are able to get consumers involved on a structural level?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.


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