Why local insights are the first step to global innovation
Cross-cultural webinars

Why local insights are the first step to global innovation

27th May 2022

Why local insights are the first step to global innovation

Innovation is a key component of any organisation at various points of their life cycle to remain relevant in the long-term, whether they are looking to further engage current customers or reach new audiences.

But in a global and cross-cultural environment, this isn’t an easy feat. Companies might come up with a great product concept that answers needs in their core/ home market, but how can they ensure:

  • It resonates in other countries?
  • It fulfils a real need locally?
  • It aligns to local customers’ expectations?
  • They understand their local audiences and behaviours in the first place?
  • And if not, how do they approach said innovation or strategy in a different light?

These answers are all found in granular cultural insights and understanding, which are too often overseen. In a world where tech and digital are dominant, brand owners are overwhelmed with data and have forgotten how to truly read and understand the human dimension of people and audiences. Without this level of cross-cultural understanding, companies take the risk of aborting a project and long-tail of investment when it could have been a viable project in the first place.

Want to learn more – watch the key takeaways from the webinar below

Our Panellists

Amy Steinmetz – Managing Director @ The Otherly – “As the Managing Director of The Otherly – Amy is responsible for the ‘otherly’ branding and innovation work that the agency delivers. She has been working in the creative field for almost 20 years, yet she still shows up with the passion and energy of a wide-eyed strategist on their first day. Throughout those years, Amy has served as a leader of teams behind the strategy, visual identity, and innovation pipeline for many global brands such as Jim Beam, Milka, Pringles, and been a key driving force behind the innovation ambitions of Beam Suntory, Nomad Foods, and Heineken. With the experience of more than 100 new product launches, she has a keen eye on how to identify opportunities and manifest winning solutions”

Jan Liska – Global Patient Strategy @ Sanofi – “Jan is a holistic expert in customer centricity with multi-cultural marketing, behavioural science, and insight & analytics background. His visionary, result-driven and pragmatic approach to business has created value and sustainable innovation for customers and brands in complex, global, multi-stakeholder environments for nearly 20 years.”

Miriam Faber – UK Head of Marketing @ META “Over the last 17 years I have delivered award winning content marketing – integrating teams, experiences and technology – to engage people in an authentic and credible voice. At Meta we are passionate about helping brands, businesses, Influencers and agencies understand the ways in which Meta can help them achieve their core objectives, and we are constantly looking for new ways to inspire, educate and grow the industry.”

local cultural insights  

Melanie Chevalier: Hi, everyone. It’s an absolute pleasure to be with all of you today with this wonderful panel to discuss how local and cultural insights are or should be the first step to global innovation. I am very pleased to be here today alongside Amy. Amy Steinmetz is the Managing Director of The Otherly. She will share her experience on product development and innovation around FMCG in particular. Alongside her, we also have Jan who is the Global Patient Strategy Lead at Sanofi and he will be sharing his experience around how cultural intelligence and how the understanding of people in context is key to global innovations in health and across the board. And last but not least, we also have Miriam Faber, who is the UK head of Marketing at Meta, who will be sharing her take on understanding subcultures in a domestic environment. Hi. Good afternoon to the three of you.

Amy Steinmetz: Hello. Thanks for having us.

Miriam Faber: Hello.

Melanie Chevalier: Pleasure, pleasure. It’s great to have you. Thank you for accepting the invitation. So I wanted to kick off the session quickly with some interesting data here from a Twitter study from 2019 that really showcases the importance of culture in the process of making purchase decisions, in particular, consumer behavior as well. And it’s interesting to see that a quarter or 25% of that decision is actually quite a large number when you consider all of the other factors that may drive that decision. And that includes price points, for example, product benefits, and convenience need versus necessity, also reputation, looking at brand familiarity or consumer reviews, for example, as well as things that relate more to emotions like purpose or even CSR within the brand or the company environment, really. But one might think is culture not actually a really big element of decision when it comes to this emotional connection with the brand in general. Anyway, So with that in mind, I thought it was interesting to just consider time and temporality as a factor in this process, because if you think of innovation really you can break it down into these three stages, the first one being research and creation, with the due diligence element moving on to go to market and the launch and then looking more at longevity and the success in the long run.

And so we can ask ourselves or when does culture and innovation come into play? But actually they do throughout the process, really, if we think about why and why culture has a place throughout, we can think firstly of relevance, obviously super important when you’re sort of looking and researching into the product or your innovation, whatever that may be. But also when you go to market, will this respond to the cultural codes, the needs from the customers and thinking of competition as well? How do you stand out from the competition? Well, perhaps by anchoring your innovation and your brand and culture is one element and one way of doing it and really being strong. And then, of course, evolution is super important, as I was mentioning, it is not just that one part of the process, because typically cultures, just like innovation, evolve all the time. And it is about keeping abreast of all these changes and what that means to the company. Really, today we’re going to focus quite a bit on the initial part and look at how culture really is the starting point, which should be the starting point because it’s often the most overseen part of the process.

But obviously, we will also consider throughout this timeline that we have why it’s also important to long term success, which innovation is also all about. So I’ll be handing over now to our speakers, if you don’t mind, and I’ll stop sharing. So thank you so much again, for all making it today. And perhaps to get kicked off, would you like to also introduce yourselves and give us a bit of background on what culture means to you and also how this impacts your day to day?

Amy Steinmetz: Thanks, Melanie. I can start. Good morning. Good afternoon, depending on where you are. I’m Amy Steinmetz, and I’m the managing director for The Otherly. So we’re an innovation and branding agency based in the UK and Switzerland. And our sort of role in the agency ecosystem is really consulting on bringing to life new product ideas, new brand ideas, and making sure that they sort of not only are relevant, but also resonate. And I think that resonance is that emotional connection. That’s where cultural culture really comes to play. And obviously, as we talk today, we’ll sort of talk about the different types of culture that we think are really important in our work. But it is certainly a word that we discussed day in and day out. So looking forward to sharing a few more of our thoughts on that.

Miriam Faber: Nice to meet you, Amy. And thank you for having me, Melanie. So my name is Miriam, as you’ve already been told, and I’m the UK head of business marketing here at Meta. Part of the business that I really look after is really about trying to help drive economic growth for all of our creators, communities, businesses, whoever you might be essentially trying to help people drive impact on economic growth and lots of interesting, exciting ways that my team does this primarily, as you say, through culture. And I guess that’s also why I’ve been invited here to talk today. I guess for me, culture really means whether really interesting, fun things happen. And it really is for me about trying to understand communities. The culture is where interesting things happen in different communities, different styles, taste, food designs, insights, history. But it’s really based around community and people. And that’s honestly what the biggest part of my role is trying to understand those communities and understand the nuance of those communities and how best to reach people and then what they need to unlock economic impact.

Melanie Chevalier: Thank you. Miriam, Jan. What about you?

Jan Liska: My name is Jan Liska, and I’m working today as a global patient strategy lead at Sanfoi General Medicines. I’m specifically focusing on my job on digital healthcare, which means how we can help people living with chronic conditions beyond the medication, on actually taking better care of themselves on a daily basis. Understanding culture, understanding people’s lives, understanding who they are, where they are coming from, what they believe in and what they aspire to is actually absolutely critical for us to drive the right healthcare intervention to them and make sure they reach the health outcome which is helpful to them.

Melanie Chevalier: Thank you Jan. That’s super interesting. Yeah. There’s an element of intimacy. Right. And understanding people in a more personal way because you understand their background. Great. So can we do perhaps the same exercise with innovation and for all three of you to share what innovation means to you in your space and how you’ve seen it evolve in the last decade, perhaps?

Amy Steinmetz: Yeah. I can kick that off as well. I like to keep things simple. And in our world, innovation is essentially new products, new services, new ways of doing things. And that might be something quite functional that meets the need. It might be something quite desirable that meets the pleasure point for people around the world, but it is sort of developing that newness. I was thinking a lot about what has changed over the last sort of ten years, and maybe this is a bit contrary, but I don’t think much has. I mean, I think our role as innovators is constantly developing what those ideas are against the cultural shifts that are happening, against what’s happening in the sort of cultural currents of the world. And so the process or the way that we innovate really should have changed over the last sort of ten years. It’s really interesting when you think about even over the last two years, I think we as humans think that our world has dramatically changed with the pandemic. And in some ways there have been some things that have. But we as humans, typically these cultural shifts that happen in our world, the way we’re living our lives, the way our belief systems and our values, they last seven to ten years.

And so what’s actually happened over the last couple of years? You might have some slight behaviours that have changed. We might be sitting potentially at home versus in an office. We might be having food delivered more often. But from a big cultural perspective, I haven’t seen the way that we do our jobs change that much over the last ten years. What I have seen is that this cultural piece is even more and more important. And it’s not just culture at a local level, but it’s what Miriam was talking about in terms of communities. So it’s not just cultural and geographical sense, but it’s also cultural and a belief or a sort of tribal sense of things that you relate to or you buy into. And with the invention of communities like Reddit, where I spend probably way too much time, you’re connecting with like minded individuals on things that you would never do, follow a makeup trend or thread back in Jan’s old world. And you do. You’re meeting people that have different cultural backgrounds when it comes to a different product. But you’re still connecting on that subject level. So to me, maybe this is a bit big to say, but I don’t think that much has changed.
It’s just a matter of us always having to constantly find those little changes and adapting to those.

Melanie Chevalier: Great. Thank you. I guess. Miriam, you have a different take on this being in tech.

Miriam Faber: I’m smiling. I was going to say gosh, when you put innovation technology together, it’s probably the beating heart of what we do. But I don’t disagree with what you said Amy, in terms for me, if you take a simplified definition of what that word means, it’s the practical implementation of change. So for me, innovation, it’s not the end product. When you say, oh, that’s a really innovative thing, it’s the process or potentially the implementation it took. And I didn’t plan to have a prop, but it happens to be on my desk and it’s actually a carton of water, right. Instead of a plastic bottle. You said it’s innovative because actually the process to make this because it’s more sustainable, it reduces your carbon footprint. It’s got a screw on cap. So it’s more than a single use plastic bottle. That’s innovative. Right? The process to get there. But I guess, as I said, from a technology perspective, we have rebranded. As you might all know, we used to be Facebook. Facebook is now part of our company. We are now Meta. And the Greek meaning of the word Meta means beyond. So for us, what we are doing is we are hoping to transform people’s experiences beyond your screen, beyond surfaces, to allow people to feel and be immersed in new experiences.
So that’s the innovation that we are going through. And I could obviously talk about this for hours and hours, but that’s my contribution to that answer.

Melanie Chevalier: Thanks, Miriam. Jan, what about you? What’s your experience with innovation and its evolution?

Jan Liska: When it comes to health care, I think no one has missed the point how telemedicine and remote selfcare and digital healthcare have actually boomed during the pandemic and keep booming afterwards. So innovation has definitely accelerated in healthcare over the past decade due to two big factors, I would say. First is actually data and digital that bring new technologies, that bring new analytic capabilities to bring new insights and open new doors to build healthcare interventions. The second big area in which I see lots of innovation is behavioural science is understanding how beyond the actual medication, people’s behavior can positively impact their health outcomes. And bringing all this to innovation and how we can actually move forward out of it what is the most important in healthcare is making sure that people actually follow their healthy routines. And that’s hard because being a patient is something you don’t want. Taking care of your health with all the constraints that sometimes it can bring to your daily life, it’s something you don’t want. And so to me, the biggest innovation in healthcare is actually these effective and lasting behavioural changes that you can bring to people living in chronic conditions so that they can, with minimal burden, live and fully live a life.

That’s innovation to me. And by the way, WHO, the World Health Organization has actually stated this very clearly. Any new intervention that would improve actually people’s adherence to existing care regimens will bring more population health impact than any new medication discovery. So implementation innovation is probably the biggest innovation we need to bring.

Melanie Chevalier: Yeah, absolutely. It’s not innovation for the sake of innovation, but making sure there is the ability to implement it and understand people on how they can best go into the treatments and actually follow them for best results. That’s super interesting. On that note, I know that in the Pharma industry, there’s a lot of talk around patient centricity, which I believe we call culture centricity at creative culture, but it’s one and the same thing. It’s really about understanding the context, understanding the behaviours. What do you feel in the health industry are the limitations, but also now the opportunities to do it right if companies better understand culture and behaviour.

Jan Liska: So there is one big opportunity I see. And there’s one point of vigilance. The big opportunity is that currently the healthcare industry is opening towards other sources of data, other sources of insights than purely medical information. There is something which is called social determinants of health, which is basically a framework that gives you an idea what are actually the factors which are accountable for your health. And what social determinants of health tell you is that there are different factors that are accountable for your health. That’s your genetics, surprisingly, there are the medical determinants, the medications you take, the quality of your diagnosis, the quality of the medical system itself. There is the social demographic data. I mean, in the US, it’s unsurprisingly already very well known that these zip codes sometimes are a good predictor of your health because it’s a different kind of situation for you if you live in a very clean nature versus a very stressful city. And last but not least, there is also what we call the individual behavior, social determinants of health, which are components of culture, of your motivations, of your fate. And so I think the huge opportunity I see is that now, finally in healthcare and you mentioned the word patient centricity, we start approaching the person as a holistic human being as a whole person with not only her or his health condition, but also her or his life beliefs, the aspirations, and start designing interventions that take into account all those various factors to make sure that healthcare is truly personalized and impactful.

Melanie Chevalier: Thanks. And it’s super interesting. I have a few more questions. I’ll get back to that point in a minute. Amy, at The Otherly. So you support clients with innovation strategy, as you were saying, and branding. And a big part of your role is to come in to support product launches and innovations. And you do this with large multinational clients. I’m pretty sure that you’re facing cross cultural challenges on a daily basis. Would you like to give us one or two examples to date where you felt that that cultural element was really decisive on the outcome of the project with the product?

Amy Steinmetz: Yeah. I mean, I can talk a little bit about something I personally worked on, and then I’ll pivot to a tweet I saw earlier this week that was a bit concerning and maybe not doing a great job of cultural innovation. I guess the first is we work a lot in the confection and sweet biscuits category. So things that you might enjoy in the evening with your family or with your partner, you might have a little downtime for yourself and enjoy a chocolate bar. And one of the biggest parts of that business is seasonal at the end of the year. So mainly around Christmas, when it comes to sort of the seasonal celebrations. And you can imagine that all of us have come from various backgrounds, from various parts of the world, and we all have very different traditions when it comes to celebrating those sorts of events in our life. In fact, it happens at different times in different countries. Whether you get together on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, 27th, what does that lead up look like in the sort of three to four weeks? What are the traditions? I grew up in the States, but I grew up in a German heritage household.

So we celebrated December 6th with the stocking outside of our door. So in order for us to sort of innovate and make sure that we’ve got products that are not only great tasting, obviously, but really actually represent the sort of emotion and capture the emotion of that season. We’ve got to understand the rituals. And, of course, you’ve got people who are on the teams that are representing all of these cultures. But it’s really important that we’re getting the broad scope. So we absolutely have to understand what that holiday season looks like in Germany versus the Czech Republic versus Poland versus Italy and making sure that we’re sort of developing a product mix that is appropriate for that. I’ll kind of pivot to another example that kind of had me pausing this week was I saw a tweet from a brand that was talking about a whiskey designed for women. And I come from Kentucky, which is home of bourbon. I’ve been drinking bourbon since I was legally allowed to, and I think I worked in whiskey for years as well. There are a lot of women who are scared to enter the category. There are also a lot of women who are just happy to know how to make their own whiskey cocktail.

And I think this is really something we’re sort of understanding where that message is going to land. So if I think about trying to attract women to whisky in places where whisky is made. So if you think about Kentucky or Tennessee, if you think about Scotland, if you think about Canada or Ireland, that’s going to be a different culture of understanding that sort of spirit than it might be in a place that doesn’t naturally have whiskey made like Australia or South Africa. So there are these sorts of lenses where you could have a great idea, but you have to understand the context of the humans there to understand how to communicate that idea. Or you might kind of upset someone like me.

Melanie Chevalier: Miriam, sorry, going back to you. So you’re all at Meta. You were explaining that you’re supporting business customers to basically best use your platform, find ways of being innovative, and anchoring Granular cultural insights as part of that right? And you make them understand the community, the subgroups, and keep them relevant, basically for those audiences and teach them to learn how to know more about those audiences. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Miriam Faber: Yeah, sure. I think we work in the business of advertising. Mark famously said during one of his recent speeches, we sell ads, and that’s kind of obviously what we do to ensure that people have a free and accessible platform for our services. So to do that, essentially what we’re doing is ensuring that everybody you work with, whether you’re spending $1, $1 million, $10 million on our platforms, you truly understand the people that you want to reach. And actually, a big part of what we’re doing is also trying to make sure that you are also reaching new audiences, audiences that you didn’t even know that you wanted to reach. And there are obviously, there are so many user cases for this type of thing. So I don’t know how many people have kind of seen when you’re scrolling through Instagram, you might have found something and you’re like I didn’t even know actually know that was something I was interested in. Now, I guess that’s obviously our algorithm for finding new people and finding products or items or experiences that might like you. But to do that, what we really have to do is really understand individuals and humans and clusters of people.

Right? Obviously, we don’t know what every single part of every single personality and a lot of the information, all the information we get is really about things that you’ve opted into. So for me, I guess the way we want to ensure that people really understand their customers is by really surfacing new audience insights. So the current sort of like one of the current priorities that kind of, my team is looking at is really about underrepresented communities and I don’t just mean the black community, the LGBTQ women, etc, etc. But the biggest I think misunderstood community right now is a disabled community. Now that community makes up over 1 billion people, our population. Yet a recent Deloitte piece of research said that only I think it was about 4% of advertising even includes anybody with a disability, let alone put in any kind of role which is like a man’s more leading role. So that’s just one example of the kind of thing that my team will do. We will look at audiences and cultures and insights and go right, we will work specifically with that audience. We’ve got 3.7 billion users on our platform so we’ve got a huge audience to actually go and get insights from but how does this audience want to be spoken to?

How do they want to be represented? Where’s the missing opportunity and for us to be able to get those insights and package them up and give them back to actually advertise the market and say you are missing out on 1 billion people, you are not talking to that’s almost 25% of the world population. That’s just kind of like insane. So that’s kind of an example of the kind of thing that my team will do is really getting those cultural interesting insights and clusters of people whether that be underrepresented majorly represented but really to then inform business strategy and again, like I said, the key thing for us to unlock economic impact.

Melanie Chevalier: Lovely, and I have to say I much recommend those insights reports you send on an ongoing basis because I do receive them. I think they’re really great and they’re a great window into people who may not have the budget to do the research themselves for their businesses to really understand those different groups, it’s great.

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