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Study Online Co-Creation

Dino Demarchi

New brand values, new campaign, new ideas

For some time now, a correct and important trend among many large companies has been to take customer orientation seriously and not only to live it internally, but also to transport it externally in communication. An essential element here is the corporate design of the company – this should embody the brand values and make it clear to its customers: “We are here for you, you are important to us”.

intervista was recently commissioned by a large Swiss company to conduct a study to test whether the newly developed brand values “simple”, “competent” and “reliable” fit the new campaign that was being developed. So much for a classic quantitative study.

Now, however, the question arose: How can more insights be drawn from this study? The comparison between different campaign designs and their “fit” with the brand values is valuable, but it does not help to look into the minds of the respondents and get an idea of what exactly customers understand by the terms and what they associate with them. This knowledge helps enormously in designing the campaign and its imagery in such a way that the brand values are conveyed from the customer’s perspective.

We had the idea not to conduct a classic qualitative face-to-face study, but to work with an online co-creation approach. This saves time and money, both of which are usually not available in abundance. For the same budget, many more people can participate in the study online.

Study setup

So we attached a qualitative online study to the quantitative study, in which the respondents were first asked whether they wanted to participate in an additional creative study part. If they did, they were asked to think about the terms “simple”, “competent” and “reliable”. Since the terms are quite abstract, we gave the respondents small “tasks” for each term at the beginning of the questionnaire to make the concepts more vivid and thus arouse associations more easily.

For example, we asked:

“When do you consider an interlocutor to be competent? What distinguishes the person, what qualities does he/she have?” or

“Now think about professional groups. Which professional group do you consider to be particularly reliable (or, conversely, particularly unreliable)? Which characteristics of this professional group make them reliable / unreliable?”


In order to get closer to the actual question – namely: “How can a company ‘live’ these brand values from the perspective of its customers? – we asked for each term, with which products, services, companies or brands one specifically associates the respective term and why this is so.

To make the results more vivid and tangible for the client, we also asked the respondents to upload photos or other images that they felt matched the respective term. Here we had to deal with the difficulty that these questions were quite extensive and complex and at the same time the respondents were actually unprepared for the study (since it was designed as an optional supplementary survey to the quantitative study). So how could we avoid too many people dropping out of the study because they lacked time and leisure?

We solved the problem quite simply by offering the option on each page to pause the survey and trigger an email with a link to the survey again. This allowed us to reduce the drop out rate to a minimum.

The results - exemplified by the term "simple"

Thus introduced to the task, the respondents were willing to engage with the study and share their associations with us in words and pictures. We received a large amount of evaluable material, which we condensed in order to work out the different dimensions of the terms.

Since the presentation of all brand values would go beyond the scope, “simple” is picked out below as an example to illustrate the results.

To start the topic block “simple”, we asked the introductory question “In general: What is simple for you? Please describe in as much detail as possible, with examples if you like”, which was intended to introduce the term.

The results of the initial question already made it obvious that the term is multi-dimensional and understood differently by different respondents. “Simple” is, among other things, when content is clearly understandable, tasks are easy to solve and products are easy to use. These associations go hand in hand with mental convenience: processes and products as well as associated descriptions or instructions for use are “simple” if they are easy to use (cf. Figure 2).

These aspects are certainly in the foreground when a company committed to the brand value “simplicity” develops and improves its products and services.

This does not answer the question of how such brand value can be implemented in advertising and marketing. Even if this is the task of communication agencies, the implementation can be client-oriented. The further dimensions of the term “simple”, which are less obvious to a company, may help here.
These broader dimensions, as shown in abbreviated form in Figure 3, make this clear: “Simple” can also be a lifestyle. Presumably because today’s life is complicated and complex, this form of simplicity and naturalness definitely has positive connotations for the respondents. This is true not only for the lifestyle, but also for the associated food – a simple piece of bread, a glass of clear water, a plain potato.

After we had recorded the various associations of the respondents on a general level, we asked them to be more specific by naming products, services, companies and brands that embodied the respective brand value for them.

Here, the respondents had a variety of associations from which a company can also learn for its own product development and communication:

  • “Simple” for the respondents were, for example, cooking instructions from Betty Bossi, instructions for use from Ikea or – as so often mentioned – the products from Apple.


  • Overall, brands are associated with “simple” if they stand for products with easy, intuitive and comfortable handling.

Our conclusion

This small study should make the new brand values more tangible and help to develop products and services according to them. It helps to work with associations that customers already have in the planned communication measures. In this way, recipients can be addressed more specifically in their familiar world of meaning.

On the one hand, the study was able to actually concretise the brand values. On the other hand, and related to this, the assumption was confirmed that one’s own associations with a term are not necessarily those that other people also have. Abstract terms are brought to life through interpretations by different people and only then reveal their complexity.

“Co-creation can help to activate the customers’ world of imagination and generate additional inputs from it in the development of brand concepts.” Pascal Geissbühler, Branders management, Zurich

Online co-creation can not only be used to better understand brand values and to interpret them in a customer-oriented way. Other fields of application are those from which the term “co-creation” actually originates – namely the joint development or further development of products and services. Here, customers can develop and improve prototypes alone, with each other and with representatives of the company. Of course, after a certain point this requires face-to-face meetings between the participants. In the initial phase, however, online studies are very helpful because they allow ideas to be developed quickly, inexpensively and – through heterogeneous participants – from very different perspectives.

Regardless of whether co-creation is used as a method to capture associations from customers and thus let them indirectly participate in the development of products and communication measures, or whether customers actually co-develop products – co-creation is a suitable way for companies to work in a customer-oriented way. And when this is implemented with our online tools, it is added that meaningful results are available quickly and cost-effectively.

Patricia Lueer intervista
Patricia Lüer
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