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
Authors own holiday photo

Cultural Guide Spotlight – Colombia, the only risk is you’ll want to stay longer

In recent years, Colombia has been up on its heel celebrating her growing numbers of visitors.

Since 2000, the country has been heavily investing in various drivers of change to attract travel enthusiasts; armed with a sense of humour and a vision for the future the country has devised peace treaties with armed rebels and advertising campaigns, like the 2008 nationwide campaign Colombia, el riesgo es que te quieras quedar’, ‘Colombia, the only risk is you want to stay longer’. And figures show that the hard work if paying off. Migration Colombia recorded an 11.2% growth in arrivals into Colombia since 2015 with 70.2% of visitors coming for vacations followed by 16.2% for business reasons.

As international tourism is on the rise, Colombians are also making domestic travels more frequently. Yes, Colombians are travelling more! Tightened safety regulations have made a big difference, but more importantly, a low cost airline ‘Viva Colombia’ was introduced in 2009. A trip on Viva Colombia is like taking a nostalgic, whimsical ride on Colombia’s rustic Chiva busses. The explanation behind this inside joke is simple; as a low cost carrier, travellers are expected to arrive early and get ready to “run for a good seat” which the same protocol for locals who run for seats on packed Chivas.


If you too are planning a trip to Colombia, then finding good tips in guidebooks can be hard, so it would be my pleasure to share my experience of beautiful Colombian road trips and carnivals!

So, what does holidays mean for Colombians’? With our tropical climate all year round, we are privileged to say vacaciones (holidays) may happen any time of the year. A very popular road trip for domestic tourists is one my family and I did 24 years ago – travelling to Cartagena. There was a TV advertisement of a soda brand in the late 90s with the slogan “llegamos a Cartagena, IIegamos a Cartagena” which translates to “We just arrived to Cartagena, we just arrived to Cartagena”. The commercial focused on the excitement of a family finishing a long road trip upon arrival to Cartagena and now it’s almost a symbolic milestone in life for most Colombians.

As Colombian’s, we like parties and can be said to be proudly happy, so many holidays are planed around these festivals! Each of Colombia’s 5 main regions – Amazonia, Andean, Caribbean, Orinocco and the Pacific – is made up of many cities and towns which celebrates their own festivity. Some are traditional events inherited from Spanish Colonisers, Indigenous, and Africans. Cultural events embody a string of carnivals, parades, cavalcades, concerts, and fairs. An example is the San Pedro festival in the city of Neiva. We also celebrate “Feast Days”. They are holidays originated from religious beliefs. 15 out of 20 paid holidays are “Feast Days”. Religious tourism also contributes to a big part of the tourism pie in Colombia. The famous destinations are commonly cities with a strong Spanish heritage such as Popayan in Cauca, Buga in Valle del Cauca and Santa Fe de Antioquia in Antioquia, among others.

Welcome to Colombia!

Alejandra Arango / INTO Cultural Guide in Colombia

24th August 2016
INTO's Cultural Guides in Dessau

Cultural Guide Spotlight – Changing attitudes to local markets and regional identity

Last week we brought together some of our Cultural Guides in Dessau, Germany. To make the most of the international spread present, we were keen to compare global thoughts on what’s defining today’s brand and design culture. As recently published by the Harvard Business Review on the difference of looking at cultures within countries as compared to between them, INTO Cultural Guides takes prides in breaking down stereotypes and generalisations.

Our Cultural Guides from around the world have been noticing a surge in interest  for design made with a local nuance. Many believe that the desire to imitate popular design trends is decreasing and will continue to do so as more young designers instead invest their talent in adapting global trends to suit regional markets and local identities.


Trend 1: The value of tapping into local talents

Looking for opportunities in more established design markets has led to many local talents searching for a second home outside their native county. Having trained as a product designer in Brazil, Paulo Victor Santos reflected that it was only after leaving his country that he appreciated the design culture Brazil offered: “There is an underdog feeling held by design students and practitioners in Brazil which makes us believe what we have in the country is not good enough. It is just not about design education but society itself. It feels like what we do is not good enough so we have to look for somewhere else that we perceive as doing better. However, when I started as a freelancer, working from Germany, I experienced how much clients valued my work as a Brazilian designer. I would not have realise this appreciation for Brazilian culture if I’ve not travelled out.”

Marcela Gonzalez, noticed the difference between working as a designer abroad in comparison to staying in her home country, Mexico. She comments: “In Mexico, when a designer from the States or Europe comes work in the office, they are perceived as “imported design”, therefore more valuable than what we have here.”

Macarena Alamos shared her thoughts on why Chileans also aspired to work aboard. She says: “Chile is far away from the rest of the world therefore, we are always looking outwards and aspire to be like them. The education curriculums we have are preparing designers to find jobs overseas. I only realise this after completing my design studies in Germany. There are many possibilities for jobs here but not back in Chile. I want to look at what is actually Chilean industry, what can locals actually do to increase its productivity and visibility so that we can find work in our country. We should start prioritising local economy rather than the reality of the rest of the world.”

In response to Macarena’s ambition of increasing visibility of Chile’s design culture, Daniel BArón, from Bogotá, Colombia highlights: “I believe the strategy for a designer is to think globally but applying those concepts locally. This will increase the visibility of the Colombian art and design industry. As a designer, we should promote local production and be proud of our heritage and start to create Colombian design trends, not just checking Pinterest all day for inspiration.” With the opening of Medellín Museum of Modern Art and in light of international attention on Colombia’s fashion industry, Medellín is currently transforming itself into Colombia’s capital city for creative progress.

Trend 2: The emergence of local design movements

A design movement in Karachi, Chowk has caught the attention of Omer, our Guide from Pakistan. Chowk has recently emerged as a hub for Pakistan’s creativity and design enthusiasts. Omer says: “In my city Karachi, there is this area called Pakistan Chowk. Over there, there are very cheap designers, they will design the whole website for 50 euros, so everyone just goes. Now it is kind of becoming a cult. You know people are doing research about “Pakistan Chowk Design” and maybe they can use this to form a distinct visual culture. It has become an identity: in my opinion it’s bad design but people in Pakistan can relate. They don’t rely on influence from the outside world at all- they are instead creating everything from scratch.” Lahore, Pakistan has also recently announced their first Biennale happening November 2017.

No matter if local talents stay in their home country or chose to work abroad, the emerging aspiration of designers are to look to their local heritage and define a visual identity they are proud of. Our Cultural Guides highlight the importance of research that looks not just at a country but also at cultures within a country’s socio-classes, cities, communities and cults.

Photo Credit: Sam Sanchez

Alcinda Lee

25th July 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