Unilever Foods, which owns many of South Africa's household-name food brands, has briefed Ingwe Communications to provide it with consumer insights and understandings that will ensure new products meet the needs and match the desires of its key target market, LSM Bs.
The Durban-based Ingwe is well-known for its knowledge of emerging markets and specifically its research capabilities within these. It also has considerable expertise in developing brand immersion and experiential marketing campaigns for brands that want to interact with these markets.
According to Unilever Marketing Manager: Robertson's and Knorrox, Brian Rea, he tasked Ingwe with developing an on-going programme that would provide the teams handling the
Knorr, Robertson's and Knorrox brands with access to the target market's 'palate' so that the company could test and fine-tune new products.
Ingwe's solution was to set up a consumer panel programme in Gauteng and KZN. The programme incorporates an "Expert Panel" trained in food product testing as well as a "Naïve Panel" or untrained panel. The first facilitates maximum articulation and feedback while the latter allows for spontaneity and honesty.
Each panel meets once a month, and the brands and sub-brands to be discussed are rotated. Most importantly, the sessions are kept informal and interactive to encourage spontaneity. Interestingly, as the relationship with the panel members has developed, the more open and honest the feedback has become, so the benefit of running the programme increases with every session.
Ingwe's responsibilities include developing the discussion guide and/or stimulus material and facilitating the group discussion. Unilever's brand teams are involved throughout the process, and client and agency meet after each session to discuss the key findings and formulate action plans.
According to Rea, the programme has proved useful in a number of ways - it has provided a dipstick consumer evaluation preceding formal research, it has explored consumer reaction to new product ideas, it has assisted the brand teams develop suitable recipe ideas, and it has stimulated communication and activation ideas.
Most importantly, it provides the brand teams with on-going interaction with the key target market; the LSM B consumer. This interplay is vital in ensuring Unilever Foods brands' continued success, he says.