In 2020 MCCP were selected as Heineken Ireland’s insight and innovation partner as they set out on a journey of innovation in stout that led them to the development of Island’s Edge. But, this wasn’t the first time that MCCP and Heineken Ireland had come together to disrupt a category and offer choice. Previously MCCP had strategically guided Heineken through the launch of Orchard Thieves which utterly changed the cider landscape in Ireland. Beyond our partnership with Heineken, MCCP have collaborated with many leading global and Irish brands in innovation that has led to brands and entire categories totally evolving. So, from all this experience what are our key learnings in ensuring innovation projects succeed to greatness?
Firstly, true agency client collaboration is crucial. This means recognising that the agency’s role is to provide a clear structure within which to pursue creativity. It also means involving a broad and diverse client team as well as other agency partners into the process as early as possible. This ensures the right skill sets are in the room to solve key questions and that there is ownership over the project as early as possible. However, with so many voices in the room its crucial that the insight and strategic agency is the custodian of the consumer voice and is providing the clear parameters, guiding and shaping the solutions to solve insights identified.
The second is learning and ensuring that you are not just collaborating with the client but with the consumer. MCCP have re-invented how we co-create with the consumer. We have added key principles to our research. Firstly, we moved away from the traditional notion that participants in research should not be known to one another and instead moved to friendship circles. This approach ensures that participants have the benefit of psychological safety so that they could reveal their true selves and are not protecting their self-identity in front of others. Secondly, we have taken fieldwork out of the research facility and into the category environment. So, for Island’s Edge we conducted all of the research on-trade. This approach creates a sense of authentic discussion, it places the consumer in the setting whereby they will be experiencing the product and facilitates a more natural and authentic experience that leads to the discovery of deeper insights.
And finally, the adoption of agile principles are fundamental to success. Agile processes require a new mentality in terms of ways-of-working and practices in order to respond to the needs of the project. But most fundamentally agile processes are about working hand-in-hand with the client and with the wide range of actors involved in innovation. It means having an open and flexible mindset, being open to change and having the ability to adapt quickly and regularly. Agile principles require a truly immersive approach to the innovation process. And while a consistent framework and mindset must be in place it is also crucial that each element of the research is seen as a unique and bespoke phase that requires its own considerations to be applied.
Speaking of the process and MCCP’s huge role, Paula Conlon Marketing Manager Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages (FABs) & Stout Portfolio at Heineken Ireland said;
‘‘The development of Island’s Edge was a collaboration between MCCP, Heineken and the consumer. As our insight and strategic partner from the very beginning MCCP provided the golden thread of insight through the entire journey from the very moment this bold ambition was articulated. The agile research process they designed ensured the consumer was co-creating at every step. We knew the challenge of innovation in stout would be huge but MCCP’s techniques helped us navigate through initial scepticism from consumers to reveal compelling insights in relation to the category, product and consumer. The insights and strategic direction provided by MCCP led to the creation of a new and exciting Irish stout born in 2021 that evolves the category and appeals to the next gen of stout drinkers”
Mary Sheahan, Director of Research