07/28/2005, Düsseldorf

 

 
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Reconnaissance

A blind date in Düsseldorf. Jens Bode has a date with yet another brunette. Barely in her apartment, Bode comes right to the point: "Would you please load your dishwasher the way you usually do?" Cups, plates and cutlery are placed in the machine. And then it happens. The brunette disappears into the bathroom, comes back with her hairbrush, and shoves it in between the dessert plates and coffee cups.
"I was speechless," says Jens Bode. And he is not thrown easily. After all, the Consumer Insights manager regularly visits customers at home for Henkel and has seen a lot. Bode not only has his dates load their dishwashers, but makes them scrub their bathrooms, wash their clothes, and shampoo their hair. Like the other Henkel market researchers throughout Europe, Bode is always gathering any and all useful information connected with the use of Henkel products.

"We are constantly on the lookout for new sources that will enable us to learn more from and about our customers," says Dr. Hans-Willi Schroiff, Vice President Market Research at Henkel. Home visits are only one such method. Henkel also organizes roundtable talks with developers and consumers, has customers keep a diary, and collects valuable information with the help of the consumer hotline.

Ideas from the customer - acceptance by the market
Innovations are the driving force of a company, not only in product development, but in market research, too. "A classic 'make-and-sell' concept used to be prevalent," says Dr. Hans-Willi Schroiff. "First a company developed a product, and then it thought about how it could be marketed. Henkel, on the other hand, believes in the 'sense-and-response' philosophy. We actively involve the customer, his wishes, and his requirements in the development process and ultimately offer him products which are tailored to meet his needs. If consumers want a dishwashing liquid that also provides care for the hands, for example, the experts tell us which ingredients can be used," says Schroiff, who has just been named "Research Personality of the Year" by the Berufsverband Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforscher [Association of German Market and Social Researchers] for the great emphasis placed on market research at Henkel.

First analyze, then develop
For Henkel market researchers, collecting as much information as possible is only the first step in this process. Their most important responsibility lies in systematically evaluating all of this information, assessing it, and ferreting out trends. The findings which ensue are discussed with developers, marketing experts, and product managers and result in the improvement of existing products and the creation of new ones. It didn't take long, for example, for the Consumer Insights managers to realize that customers wanted to see "a visible reaction of the product on the stain" in stain treatment. "That makes them feel certain that the product is penetrating deep into the fibers and will effectively remove the stain," says H.W. Schroiff. This resulted in the still powerful oxi trend in stain removers, in which Henkel's Sil product range was one of the first. In 2004 alone, this market segment in Germany recorded growth of almost 72 percent. Internationally, the market has doubled.

"Consumer Insights" - a basis for successful Henkel products
The special surfactant system in Henkel's successful dishwasher detergents, which gives an optimal shine to stainless steel, also stemmed from an idea of the Consumer Insight team. "Our home visits repeatedly showed that consumers did not want to have to shine their cutlery again when it came out of the dishwasher. Shine is very important to the consumer," says Jens Bode. The real market success of the dishwashing detergent products with stainless steel shine is proof that the Henkel philosophy works. "Requests from our development departments are increasing considerably," says Dr. Hans-Willi Schroiff. "They show that Henkel truly does live customer orientation in all of its business sectors. And that many more products inspired by consumers can be expected in the future."