Such was the standard of entries to this year's Prosper Riley-Smith Research Effectiveness Awards that it was the toughest one to date to judge. In the last issue we featured the winner, Green Light Research's Amelia Coulam and Andrea Higgins, and their "Making Memorable Moments" project for Center Parcs. In this one we feature three of those who made it on to the shortlist, entries from Discovery Research, Jigsaw and Flamingo International, so that readers can get a taste of their calibre.

Alan Hathaway, Discovery Research
Facilitating Change For Betfair

To sustain growth, Betfair — home to the world's biggest online betting community — identified the need to reach a mainstream football customer base. Great you may think. A project about football, easy. But as Betfair's culture centres upon building technologically advanced products that appeal to rational horse racing punters, the project had to deliver more than just findings. It needed to be collaborative and evolve Betfair's culture; challenging the fabric of many internally held beliefs. As I said, easy!

Step one required the client to absorb the world of its new customer, to create the bedrock for brand change. This was achieved by cutting immersion session findings into well edited profile DVDs. Armed with this information, Betfair produced outline scenarios for the development of the site and a product portfolio that was customer, rather than technology, driven. As the client now felt more confident with its audience, the project moved on to co-creation sessions to allow the development, refinement and replacement of initial ideas. Further collaboration was attained with respondents through engaging them online over an extended time period using a qualitative tool, The Thinking Shed. This provided continued ownership and further insights. The final stage challenged thinking with an ethnography piece on match day experiences.

A key learning from this research was how the effective blending of approaches built internal client confidence which, in turn, provided permission for the research to grow with their needs. Imparting findings in accessible "real" formats assisted this process and the research was a real facilitator of change throughout the business.

Ali Pugh, Jigsaw Research
"Education is the best provision for old age"
Why we couldn't agree more with Aristotle

Customer research and insight is at the centre of all financial group AXA's CVM developments and our joint paper showcased a continuous two-year research programme, carried out by Jigsaw, to provide more information about customer needs in understanding complex products.

This programme provided AXA with a clear and unique communications strategy for its pension and investment customers. It focused on customer needs so that they could make better investment decisions in an increasingly complex market, at a time when trust in financial services companies has been damaged. The research informed the focus and strategy of four different product campaigns and identified a brand position for AXA to occupy when communicating with customers.

The effectiveness of these campaigns was measured as part of AXA's commitment to continually improve its communications with customers and the early signs from this effectiveness tracker are encouraging in terms of the impact on the relationship between AXA and its customers.

The paper also demonstrated how a collaborative approach between client and agency ensured the research met the expectations of internal clients and that it was fully adopted and implemented within the organisation.

This programme worked because AXA fully committed to it and the partnership approach meant it felt a real sense of "ownership" of the research, with the findings embedded in the organisation and informing decisions

Sam Gomez, Flamingo International
Johnson's Pink Lotion
Brushing the dust off an icon

Everybody knows Johnson's Baby Lotion, or "Pink Lotion" as it has become known, but familiarity breeds contempt — particularly in the constantly innovative world of adult and baby skincare. In 2007, though Pink Lotion was still the number one selling baby lotion, value sales had been declining over the previous five years as the category shrunk (-10% MAT).

  • The brand needed refreshing, but the task came with two challenges: no new product news from R&D
  • and two targets to please (mums and adult women without children)

So it was no mean feat for such a familiar product that consumers felt they almost knew everything there was to know already.

A close, collaborative program of research-led consulting between Flamingo, J&J and Lowe began with a workshop to brainstorm potential territories, followed by two phases of concept recycling to nail the story. We had to find the hook in the product promise, discover something true to the brand and that felt truly compelling at a time when the baby and adult skincare categories were literally exploding with new, exciting offers — making Pink Lotion feel stuck in the past.

It turns out that new isn't always better, and the research led to the new positioning for Pink Lotion called “The Original Babysoftness”.

And the results? Phenomenal scores in quant testing (Hopper) 62% "top box" and 91% Top 2 box

  • the development of a 360° marketing campaign (A touch of Magic) which received the highest Link Test scores J&J has ever achieved
  • by May 2009 a 10% growth in MAT.

In the words of Mathilde Beau, J&J franchise manager, Baby Gbu, EAME: “Pink Lotion keeps growing and growing and we've already exceeded our original project target. Our icon is back.”