International Research and Cultural Guides – Expert Interview with Emma Bellamy, Innovation Designer at Dorel Juvenile

Dorel Juvenile Europe create innovative products and services for growing children, and their strong brands Maxi-Cosi, Bébé Confort, Quinny, Safety 1st, Baby Art and Tiny Love are well known globally.

Researching with over 50 families in Japan, China and Korea over the course of six months, Studio INTO supported Dorel’s innovation team in a pan Asian market scoping which aimed at better understanding the East Asian markets in general and the baby mobility sector in particular.

As always with international projects, we worked with our Cultural Guides – experts in analysing their culture and local consumption – who’s deep native knowledge helped us make sense of the three markets and detect emerging behaviours and influential trends relevant to Dorel.

Three months after the hand-over we got back in touch with Emma Bellamy – Innovation Designer & Marketing Intelligence Specialist at Dorel Juvenile – to see how the project insights were being put to use.

Why is ethnographic research important for Dorel?

As a company we aren’t trying to tell people what they want or need, we would rather understand our consumers so well that the products and services that we offer automatically do that for them – before they realise, or maybe without them noticing at all. In order to do that, we really need to understand our consumers on a very personal level and that’s’ why I think we find ethnographic research so powerful.

We’re not looking for facts like ‘on average a woman has 3.2 children’ because those insights are very easily dismissed and are not only hard to truly understand but very difficult to interpreted into some kind of result. Collecting stories that make something foreign seem relevant and tangible is important for us.

Why did you decide research in Asia was important when you’re already in the market?

Parenting is obviously a global phenomenon and we know that the need of those parents, especially those that live in cities, are quite universal. But those same needs can manifest themselves differently from country to country, or from region to region, or even different parts of the same city.

We know the European market and consumers quite well in this office, but outside of Europe it’s hard to even know what questions to ask. Sometimes Asia can feel like its one big unknown – embarrassing to even admit it, because it’s so big and the countries are so very different – but it’s very easy from our perspective to just group it together “Asia over there…”, but there’s a lot to learn from those countries and people.

Having worked with us on three projects recently, what was your experience of working with INTO and our Cultural Guides?

I think the Cultural Guides are integral to the kind of research that we were doing. Dorel is a global company with global brands and we like to be able to focus our brands, products and services regionally. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to do research in all different places, but we can’t possibly have a research team in every region – it’s not efficient nor feasible – so I think of course it helps to use external agencies like INTO to help us with that.

We need people who are going to do more than just translate for us, as language is so much more than the words. I think tone of voice is something like 38% of communication. So capturing those sort of details, the connotations of what people are talking about and the nuances in what they’re saying is something you can’t do without a cultural guide. They are integral for this type of research.

Who would you say uses the insights; Is there one specific team, or does it trickle down to everyone? And what has been the biggest impact?

I think if nothing else it’s proven how useful research can be and how important it is because it really threw our expectations out the window.

I work on the innovation team here, but I also work very closely with the market insights team; the two teams work hand in hand to help and learn from each other. Between us we’ve used the insights to analyse projects we were currently working on to ask ‘is it even possible to think about this product in any part of Asia’?  We’ve also used the results to think about how to make more global products – products that are not just European focused but that have potential to be sold globally, possibly with a local configuration or marketing.

The research we’ve done has helped bring our users to life for people within all parts of the organization, especially those whom don’t work directly with consumers. With such powerful stories from around the globe, our consumers finally feel like real people. Building empathy this way is invaluable and helps to bring the consumer to the center of our organization.

And I think that is has also helped us to bring our global company and colleagues together and us to better understand each other’s cultures. The more we can do to bring people together and to have a better understanding of each other the better we can work together.

Only final question, what for you was the most unexpected insight from these projects?

I think the difference between the countries really surprised me, but the one that really stuck with me is how in China, the whole family works together to care for baby. One set of grandparents usually moves in the parents for the first three years of their child’s life. At first, coming from a more individualistic society, I thought how overwhelming it would be to have a whole family in one apartment, trying to agreeing on parenting techniques and planning, etc. But looking more into it, it’s easy to even get a bit jealous. Since the grandparents are always around, both mom and dad can go back to work, and no one is ever left alone to care for the little one. It’s really a team effort!

We’re always look for how consumer use our products in new ways. That really is the best bit of doing this really open ended research – you leave room for your consumer to surprise you!

A big thank-you to Emma for talking to us!

6th October 2016