Written by: Mark Skeba, MBA Kellogg University
Assistant Professor in the College of Business and Technology at North Central University
In late fall 2019, my class at North Central University in Minneapolis had the unique opportunity to work on fruit snack concepts for a local Fortune 500 food manufacturer. It was a great opportunity to develop, prototype, and test new product concepts on some of the biggest brands in the category.
After some initial consumer, market, and ideation, my class had some interesting concepts and prototypes. The students thought that they were “cool” ideas. My experience in the food industry also told me that there were some potentially strong ideas. However, as we got ready to present to our clients, it felt like we had a lot of intuition, but lacked legit market research. However, the client meetings were in two weeks, and it didn’t seem like there was enough time to set up any sort of meaningful market test.
Through some last-minute digging, I came across the AskSuzy platform. Their site talked about instant feedback. I also saw their client list with Coke, Kraft, and Mondelez. This would give my students the credibility they needed to pitch to their brand teams.
In under a week, we got an agreement in place and my students had access to begin testing their results. The AskSuzy platform gave the students access to real-time data and informed their new product concepts immediately. In 15 years of CPG marketing experience, I had never had the ability to go from concept ideation to testing this fast.
There were three specific aspects that made the AskSuzy platform such a valuable real-world learning experience:
1. It was so intuitive that students could use it immediately (even during an 8AM class).
Even the most engaging undergrad class faces an uphill struggle at 8AM (most 19 year-old lives start after 11PM). The cool thing about the AskSuzy platform was that students were able to set things up incredibly fast. The interface was so easy that most groups set up their concept test within twenty minutes before the cold brew even kicked in.
2. Really fast…we’re talking minutes.
Compared to other research tools, we started getting responses in minutes. The students were looking at real-time results coming in the same class period we fielded the research. In fact, some groups were able to identify lead concepts before leaving class. By the next class meeting, they had more than 500 full responses and had already begun data analysis.
3. Easy to use charts and data analysis tools.
The students were able to dig into the back-end tools and data. The easy to use charts and graphs made it easy for students to go from data collection to analysis. The quantitative results were easy to cut, analyze, and present. The word-clouds and response tagging tools allowed us to pull insights from the open-ended questions. It helped add qualitative context to the quantitative results. This helped the students see potential to dramatically improve seemingly underperforming new product concepts. It saved great ideas from being doomed by fixable flaws.
The Suzy platform allowed my students to do research on par with professional marketers.
As a marketer, one of the most valuable things I noticed was the ability to continue to learn and iterate after the original survey. The ability to cut the data based on different demographic data and sort based on questions allowed the students to drill-down to more information. For example, the students assumed that one of the product concepts would appeal to male consumers, but found that there was more appeal with Gen Z females. The platform allowed the student to dig deeper into open ended questions to understand the “why” beyond the survey results.
The other cool aspect we only scratched the surface of was the ability to re-target respondents with concept iterations. The ability to iterate and re-evaluate with the same consumers, is invaluable; it actually allows marketers to understand if changes are meaningful. Can I turn rejectors into acceptors? Can I turn potential-purchasers into product evangelists? It saves a ton of time and money to iterate pre-launch.
As a professor, this provided an incredible opportunity for my students to work on real brands AND engage real consumers. The real time nature, allowed us to execute the field the research on a Friday, and evaluate things the very next class period. The ability to bring quantitative analysis and the qualitative “why” behind the results blew away the clients. A bunch of undergrad majors were able to field research at a Fortune 500 level (and dare I say, faster than most brand teams I’ve worked on). One of the brand managers at our client even commented, that he wished he could turn research that fast.
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