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

Emerging Consumer Lifestyles Asia – Regional Compilation 2016

For the last twelve months we’ve spoken to 50+ families across all corners of Asia, looking for large market trends and collecting personal stories from inside people’s homes and on the street; we have been asking about everything from family life to favourite objects, travel destinations to social aspirations. This is our regional list of some of the bigger trends we think will be shaping the consumers and markets across Asia in the near future.


CHINA – The incubator of ubiquitous apps

As China’s internet penetration passes 50% this year – just over 700 million users – the online market establishes itself as the shopping channel of choice for goods and services. With the ever growing connectivity it’s exciting to see how ‘home grown’ apps are not only shaping the Chinese consumer, but setting the trend for the future of commerce and communication globally.

WeChat not only dominates China’s messaging app market but is becoming truly ubiquitous allowing users to transfer money, hail a taxi, deliver a pizza or book a doctor’s appointment, whilst XiaoHongShu (Little Red Book) China’s $1bn shopping app is turning everyone into trend spotters.


KOREA – A society of two faces; home vs public

Korean life is competitive in all things: final year school students can get police escort to their final exams to make sure their don’t miss them, people confess to carrying an empty coffee cup around to show their participation in the highly popular café culture and expectant mothers feel bound to go on spiritual holidays and to paint mindfulness paintings to ensure the best start in life for their unborn child. In a society where many feel there are constantly being judge, individuals and companies are going to great lengths in an attempt to escape.

The home – a  place of escape from competitive society – has started shaping consumer trends, whilst at work stressed employees are shut inside coffins or sent to laughing therapy in an attempt to teach them the value of life and happiness.


INDIA – The new men and women

India’s population is young; with over 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35, the average consumer is competitive, impressionable and social image consciousness. The increasing media exposure and globally informed aspirations of the new middle class has started to create new definitions of femininity and masculinity, causing tension as well as liberation for young men and women in a society still bound by strong traditions.

Whilst India’s expanding opportunities has seen an increase in the visibility of women in public spaces, such as the office and the gym, Indian men’s sense of “masculinity” still impacts parents’ preference for sons despite the many legal steps to stop gender discrimination.


JAPAN – Confident patrons of the domestic market

Despite a shrinking domestic market, the Japanese see themselves as a confident and comfortable consumer group. Whilst they speak highly of foreign design and are quick to purchase foreign products and brands they still place greater trust in locally manufactured goods. We have seen strong popularity of brand collaborations where local produce was used by foreign brands to make Japan specific variations.

Following the highly successful 1974 advertising campaign “Kentucky for Christmas”, KFC has become synonymous with Christmas in Japan. Perhaps even stranger is that the chicken specialist have also become synonyms with fish and green tea as the brand adapts to the local preferences. The baby carrier brand ‘Ergo Baby’ also realised the value in cultural adjustment when they made a sell-out product using Japanese jeans fabric for a Japan specific baby carrier, made in collaboration with Lee Jean.


INDONESIA – The emergence of middle class consumption in Asia’s next giant

As one of the MINT countries – Indonesia’s emerging market is tagged to be one of the world’s next economic giants. Popularity of products in the leisure and health product categories and overwhelmingly sense of optimistic with consumers we spoke to all supports the theory of thriving market. Travel, fruit juices, skin care and wellbeing products as well as and health insurance are booming as the growing middle class shifts towards an aspirational form of consumerism with individuals seeking to improve their lives and their social standing.


Photo credit: Bric News

Nathalie Jerming – Havill

10th May 2016