Walk the Talk: How Ecco Crafted a Winning Marketing Strategy

In an effort to align its brand values with its customers’ awareness, the company wanted to leverage its strive for innovation as one of its selling points and to communicate it to them effectively.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the Consumer Innovation team at Ecco decided to involve its customers in the production of its upcoming campaigns and refine its communication strategy based on their insights.

“Our work is to try to take all of those beautiful innovations that Ecco has come up with and try to describe them in a way where people know how it’s gonna make their daily lives better”

Gabby Henriksen, Senior Consumer Innovation Analyst at Ecco

Intuition is great… but customer insight is better

To learn more about how to communicate with its customers, Ecco required insights into its customers’ opinions. This was a stark contrast to Ecco’s old marketing model, which traditionally relied on “gut feelings” and hard metrics, without much integration of qualitative data. This had to change.

Therefore, the Consumer Innovation team at Ecco partnered with Sonar to radically disrupt the way it created and developed its marketing campaigns. The company conducted over 30 interviews with men and women in America and Germany, testing multiple marketing assets from its latest campaign.

What Ecco learnt from its customers

Customer insights taught Ecco how it could emphasise its innovation in marketing efforts to resonate with the company’s consumers:

“We found out [that] communicating innovation really has to do with just communicating the end result. What consumers want to know is what that specific technology is going to do for them. ‍It’s really going to shape our strategy going forward on how we talk about our innovation.”

“Numbers can only tell you so much…”

The interviews Ecco and Sonar made with Ecco’s customers helped the company connect with its customers and, subsequently, know what to do to make its communication and marketing efforts more successful.

That’s because these interviews helped provide the “whys” of a customer’s choice or action. And that was precisely what the company needed, according to Gabby:

Numbers can only tell you so much. They don’t tell you the reasons behind why people are swaying this way or that way

She further exemplifies how the video interviews helped the company to see how its customers struggled with their technical descriptions:

The company could see real people reading out loud the Ecco facts and benefits and the Ecco descriptions, and they could see them struggle

This prompted the company to change its communication style.

First of all, it taught Ecco that customers valued certain aspects of its shoes, like comfort or innovation, over others. Next, it showed them that although innovation was something customers valued, it was also hard to understand in written words:

“People are not gonna take the time to read long descriptions.”

Conversely, videos or visual-rich content was reviewed more favourably by Ecco’s audience. These insights helped the people at Ecco learn how to best communicate certain aspects of their products in their campaigns or on their website:

“The result is to show our product descriptions and show how we talk about innovations in a visual format.”

Experiencing innovation through the eyes of the customer

Customer insights also showed that “you can have a great product, but it’s all about how you communicate it and talk about it“. First, Ecco learned that the brands renowned for innovation are those that use technology for enhanced comfort:

“Consumers don’t really care about any innovative footwear that has nothing to do outside of comfort and quality. So comfort was a big one, and that was great news for Ecco because that is something that we thrive on.”

Knowing this, the company shifted its perspective of innovation from a stand-alone value proposition to an interwoven communication component of its shoes’ comfort. This allowed the company to capitalise on its innovation efforts while contextualising them in a way that was digestible and resonating with its audience.

Bringing the customers to the heart of decision-making

By listening to its customers, Ecco” has changed the way it writes descriptions of shoes and communicates how the shoes can make peoples’ lives better”. In addition, the feedback made it easier to communicate the benefits of the shoes to align with what the consumers deem essential.

These actionable insights helped the company connect with its customers by bringing them to the centre of its decision-making.

By knowing how to showcase its innovations in its campaigns, the marketing team can now create campaigns guaranteed to resonate with its customers’ needs.

Further research and additional customer insights

Learning that consumers care most about comfort and quality, Ecco wanted to research what those qualities mean to the consumers. Then, to help the company address its most significant selling points: comfort and quality through innovation.

Ecco’s findings showed that customizability and a shoe’s ability to mould to the individual foot signify innovation to the customer. The company also found that consumers want to know what value a product has for them specifically:

“The shoe did signify innovation to the consumer which will transpire into how we communicate all our shoes”

A company-wide impact

Ecco learned how best to communicate its innovations from the consumers’ perspective and what type of communication material effectively conveys the benefits of the company’s products. The company gained insights into what its customers prefer in footwear, making it easier to address those preferences in their marketing campaigns.

Moreover, these insights can also be used by other teams in the company, generating a company-wide effect greater than initially expected:

“We’re working with the entire business to try to plug in consumer insights where we can.”

The gathered customer insights will have a more significant effect, as the findings will transpire into other business units.

How Novozymes Leveraged Customer Insights to Create a Human-Centric Health Brand

But how can you, as a company, bring biological answers and find solutions for your consumers in an increasingly demanding marketplace?

You ask them about their needs and aspirations, of course.

Rethinking how to address health and solve challenges

Novozymes has been dedicated to enzymes and microbes for more than 70 years, working to solve biological problems and make a difference in the world.

But with the appearance of new health paradigms such as stress-related diseases, the company needed to rethink how to address health and solve society’s modern challenges. As a first step to tackle these new paradigms, Novozymes wanted to uncover more about its customers and their brand perception by combining customer insights with technology, to take those insights to adapt the brand.

But, according to Ulrich Irgens, General Manager of Novozymes OneHealth, the conclusion was not what they were anticipating…

Understanding the surroundings in the market landscape

Before Novozymes could figure out a way to grow, it was essential to know the competition, which meant scanning the market landscape and their brand’s perception: “We started with lots of insights on the perception of Novozymes in the health industry,” Ulrich Irgens explains.

The research revealed that while the company was up against some very established players in a competitive entry:

It was pretty clear that Novozymes was a market leader in biotechnology, [but] in health, we were a completely unknown entity

Ulrich Irgens

Consequently, it prompted the company to consider how it could increase its brand awareness. And so, OneHealth was born: a brand business unit used to market solutions within human health under one singular umbrella.

“We realised that we needed to build something quite specific.”

Novozymes sought to uncover consumer needs and develop tailored solutions to their issues. Therefore, the company needed a means of understanding its consumers on a deeper level.

Enter customer insights.

How do you make a leap at the very beginning of your innovation or development project into the unknown? It’s scary [but it] can be triggered by consumer insights. We had to take insights as a way of working and embed it as a cultural way of thinking in everything we do.”

Ulrich Irgens

With insights into its customers, the company wrote a core story to leverage the value of the company while creating a strong and dedicated health brand: “[It was] us saying ‘what do we need to do, who do we need to do it for and why are we doing it?’” Irgens explains.

According to Irgens, helping consumers live better and healthier lives is not just achieved through scientific expertise, but with empathy as well:‍ ‍“We realised that we needed to build something quite specific” in order to stand out and solve the needs of the consumers of tomorrow – and this requires empathy and the ability to set oneself in someone else’s shoes.

Putting empathy and human understanding at the forefront

Novozymes OneHealth aims to create clinically proven probiotics and enzymes tailored to meet end-user needs. And to meet the specific needs, the company has to put empathy and human understanding at the forefront of everything they do:

“You have got to show consumers and customers that you are a business, a team of people and a culture that is there to understand people.”

For instance, all the visuals Novozymes use show actual employees and team members, “there to communicate that we are here to understand and here as human beings, not just as technology providers,” Irgens says.

Additionally, this is the company’s way of putting empathy at the fore of their work, which he states is a “supercritical [element]“, just as it is to ensure “that customers and consumers are at the front of everything“.

According to Irgens, the goal was to ensure that the consumer hasn’t moved on: “We must make sure that we check in at every point along the way to make sure that we have the consumers with us,” he concludes. And this was ensured by actually using the insights they gathered.

As a result, the company improved in both positioning and branding

Novozymes validated extensively with its consumers, needing the human side of things: “We pivoted and adapted our story and we tested again and got some really, really interesting insights out of it,” Irgens explains.

For instance, the company concluded that some concepts stood out more than others in the core story. Words such as “trillion” and “cutting-edge technology” were the most noticeable ones because of being the strongest claim of the core story. Additionally, the visual identity gave the impression of a human-centric and scientifically sound company, which was the aim.

Both examples enabled Novozymes to develop a tone of voice and a visual concept that resonates with its audience.

Ulrich Irgens explains that using the gathered insights has helped the company grow. However, he notes that:

If you don’t listen and use these insights along each of these steps to either pivot or adapt or change, […] the market [can] move on and the value proposition [will] no longer [be] relevant.”

As a result, the company landed with a brand personality that translates its philosophy, culture and beliefs: the One-in-a-trillion brand idea.

Thus, empathy helped Novozymes amplify data development

Irgens explains that consumer insights show consumers are becoming more activist-oriented regarding health. “They are looking for a prevention more than a cure; they are looking for health care, not sick care,” he states.

This conclusion helped the company in its task of figuring out how to address health to resonate with consumers’ needs. Additionally, it helped establish the OneHealth brand as well as the ‘One-in-a-trillion’ vision and culture: “We want health to be an aspiration, not a need,” Irgen reveals, which correlates well with what the customers are looking for.

Novozymes validated the final concept with consumers by creating and testing several idea propositions. Ultimately, this ensured that the company offered its customers solutions verified by end-consumers. As Irgens states, it’s “not just [about] driving insights, but [about] understanding them” as well.

Using insights has been an excellent way for the company to ensure that the value proposition and innovation remain relevant. Combining trustworthy technology with actionable insights has enabled the company to build a business from the ground up, going from six people to hundreds of employees. In addition, it has helped deliver real breakthrough innovation to happy customers.

But, as Irgens explains, “Insights are not a single source for us”. Instead, it is used to amplify other data, such as scientific insights.”

Novozymes managed to create a vision and a culture with the OneHealth brand that resonates with the customers. Moreover, the brand’s goal to be “purely driven by insights” has enabled a considerable commitment to the customers, which is what “stood out in insights [into] what customers like,” Ulrich Irgens concludes.

How Maersk Used Insights to Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns

“Our audience is exposed to huge amounts of content. Each day they typically scroll around 90 metres on their phones and see two and half thousand advertisements. So we need to create something that’s going to stand out, that tells our story”

Dominic Pope, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Maersk.

Dominic has been with the company for four and a half years. During that time, one of the main marketing focuses has been the repositioning of the global brand of Maersk. In that transition, Sonar played a significant role.

The transition started in 2019 when Maersk decided to not only focus on ocean shipping but become an end-to-end logistic partner for their B2B customers.

We needed some insight into our customers’ views on what logistics is and what it means within their organisation. We wanted to validate what they like and engage with and if they understood the core message of our communications. We did that in order to create these large brand campaigns that could tap in and really form an emotional connection with them.”

Essential insights from different markets

It has been a challenge for the marketing team at Maersk to cut through to their audience in a competitive media landscape. Their approach was to push boundaries and create content that intrigues and interests people. But they needed to validate their content, and they needed validation from a global audience.

“We are a global company, and Sonar allows us to test globally. This gives us the ability to target specific people from our customer segments and show them our creative output and use their reactions to understand them”

With the help of Sonar, Maersk has received customer insights from different markets and industries around the globe. These tests have informed them that although some things might work in one market, they may not produce the expected reactions in another.

The understanding and feedback we get are really rich data for us. We use it to tweak the creative and make changes or even go back to the drawing board entirely. It gives us the assurance that we are developing something that will really connect”

Validation is critical when investing in large campaigns

When Maersk is creating a global marketing campaign, they invest large budgets and want to get an indication of the reception. So in 2020, they released a campaign film called “Disconnected”.

However, as they were developing it they were balancing between making it mysterious and compelling but also more complex.

“The story is quite complicated. It is about these people in a different world of logistics and how they are all connected. Would it really stand out or not? We used Sonar to validate that. Our segment really understood and appreciated it taking away our message,” says Dominic Pope.

The social media benchmarks confirmed this. The campaign scored within the top 5% overall. In addition, when Maersk released the film into the market, it achieved over 150 million views globally.”

“The work with Sonar really helped us in achieving these fantastic results ” Pope emphasises.

The insights deliver a more profound understanding

Maersk is highly focused on being a customer-centric organisation. To improve the delivery of their customer’s needs, Sonar has been a vital partner in providing in-depth insights.

There is a very fast turnaround, which is vitally important to us because we need to be able to understand whether something is ready, needs a rewrite or isn’t going to work at all”

For Dominic and his team, Sonar delivers analysed and organised data from their target audience, for example, whilst testing a film for a campaign. He highlights the quantitative amount as a useful barometer. But it is not the most critical part.

Those insights present us with a really deep dive into the data. The level of understanding we receive tells us how people feel about certain things. So it is the qualitative that gives an important understanding of whether a project is going to present a challenge.”

Sonar’s understanding of their business and what Maersk is trying to achieve has Dominic Pope describing their relationship as “so much more than a service provider relationship.”

For Dominic, these insights are the cornerstone of their work.

“A campaign is nothing without insights as a foundation. That is everything. You can do the best creative work in the world, but if it doesn’t create a connection with your customer, it will not resonate. It’s not going to drive your business,” concludes Dominic Pope.

Maersk’s Philosophy on Customer Centricity

But why does customer centricity really matter when working with a 20-foot-long container? And how do the teams at Maersk actually use customer insight?

In short, their practice is to make the customer shine in front of their own customers. Read along to get the full explanation.

Maersk has embarked on a customer-centric journey

Maersk has a legacy of almost 120 years of shipping. Today, it is the largest container shipping line in the world. However, in recent years, the company has repositioned itself to be an end-to-end logistics partner for B2B customers.

But when navigating a large vessel in a new direction, many unknown factors must be taken into account. Global Head of Insights at Maersk, John Walker, leads global customer insights and solution development for the company.

In this process, his focus has been democratising insights and driving customer-led innovation. In his own words, he has truly taken the journey of what it means to be customer-centric. Let’s have a look at the journey towards customer-centricity at Maersk.

The future is all about the customers

When people think of Maersk, many imagine a whacking great ship with over 20,000 containers on it. That is the company’s legacy. In that context, John Walker says that he is not sure how vital customer-centricity used to be.

“In the past, our customers were just the companies we billed for moving their 20 or 40-foot containers from port A to port B. The future is to be an end-to-end integrated logistics provider, which means we follow the supply chain from raw materials going through factories to the customer’s front door.”

To be able to successfully make this transformation, they need to know a lot more about the customers. So this has been the main focus for John and his team at Maersk.

Customer-centricity should be deep in the culture

When John describes Maersk’s approach to customer-centricity, he asks you to picture a lead singer with his band at a concert.

“Where do you think Maersk is in the picture? At the front, leading the band? This is actually our customer on stage because we believe that being customer-centric is helping our customer shine in front of their customer. Maersk isn’t even in this picture. We’re the lighting crew, the sound engineers and the roadies, John describes.”

He sees it as a humbling acknowledgement that their long-term success hinges on the ability to make the customer shine in front of their customers.

“That is the mindset we must all own and act from,” he says.

At Maersk, customer-centricity means that every colleague must practise customer empathy and see the linkage between what they do and the customer impact.

“Customer-centricity doesn’t come on spreadsheets and in PowerPoint. It is how we behave. It is not just something you turn on when you are talking to a customer. It is culture. It needs to be part of every colleague’s natural behaviour.”

When a company is customer-centric it is not just a few teams that think of the customer. It has to be spread across the organisation. Starting at the very top.

It all begins with the leaders

A part of John’s job is to encourage the leaders at Maersk to stimulate a team culture of ‘customer obsession’. In such a culture, the teams genuinely empathise with customers and employees are encouraged to solve the challenges of today and explore opportunities to shape future value for the customers.

“Leaders should be able to speak with confidence about what customer-centricity means in Maersk, unpack what it means for their function and have personal stories they can tour with to role model customer-centricity.”

At the same time, he mentions the importance of a shared view of the customer. The leaders should do that through data and tools that continuously deepen employees’ understanding of our customers and how to best create value for them.

“Curiosity thrives in a fruitful environment of experiments, data utilisation, and customer interactions. We humbly acknowledge that there is always more to learn through customer interactions, data and experiments”.

John Walker and his team in Customer Insights are using different tools to get a deeper understanding of their customers. Especially when they seek insights into scalable products.

Sonar transforms product insights into actionable outcomes

Maersk has over 40 product teams working with segmentation, but they can only get to a certain point on their own. In order to make insights truly actionable, they often have to be specific to the product.

How do they know what the retailers in India think, feel or do when considering a specific product?

“This is where a platform like Sonars is incredibly helpful. I have tremendous confidence in being able to point Sonar after a stakeholder. Even given the relatively low maturity of our stakeholders, a data-led question will get translated into something commercially relevant, actionable and researchable.”

John Walker goes on to explain that Sonar has given Maersk a reach beyond its own resources when needing a scalable and repeatable model to get quality-controlled insights from its customers.

Maersk uses a range of partners, but Walker highlights Sonar’s ability to conduct scalable online interviews with non-expert stakeholders with a consistency that works globally.

“I feel comfortable pointing the Sonar team at any internal stakeholder. When somebody on our team ‘needs to talk to the customer’, I am confident it will get shaped into a sensible, outcome-based brief,” concludes John Walker.