Social Insight Built to Order

Client: Lassen Innovation/Hänz
Agency: NetBase Solutions Inc.
Engage business enterprises by developing a LEGO alternative with attributes directly sourced from honest social learnings

The Backstory: Eighty percent. According to Lassen Innovation, that’s the percentage of new consumer products that fail in the marketplace after neglecting to take social insight into consideration.

“As a product developer, it’s about finding the needle movements in that space that can help you understand the landscape of what’s happening with customers and help you set the right business goals,” says Lassen Innovation CEO and inventor Nicholas Webb,  whose main bread and butter is providing corporate strategy and consulting services to businesses.

Which is where Hänz enters the scene. Webb founded Hänz, a toy company that produces an unconventional building and construction kit and sits under the Lassen umbrella, to “drive business innovation,” as well as foster inventive mental processes among kids—the engineers and forward-thinking businesspeople of tomorrow.

In addition to selling the kits as a consumer toy, Lassen uses the Hänz platform as part of the enterprise innovation training it provides to its client organizations to help demonstrate pipeline management, challenge-based ideation, workforce collaboration, team building, and other business skills.

But before Webb could bring his idea to market, he knew he needed to reach out to tap the general conversation around educational toys where it was happening—among consumers in the social space.

The Solution: And for that, Webb and his team reached out to NetBase, which provides brands with social media analysis and measurement tools. One such product, the Web-based Insight Composer, allows users to, among other things, create modifiable dashboards and a variety of data visualizations—including pie charts for the left-brainers or word clouds for the right-brainers, for example—to identify and analyze competitive intelligence around specific brands and terms.

For instance, by typing “LEGO” into the Google-like Insight Composer toolbar, a user can view its full competitive landscape and locate all related and relevant conversations, as well as run filters based on designated commands.

“The bottom line is, no matter what kind of business you’re in, you have to have a fresh, real dialogue with your customers and take the time to listen and understand what they’re saying in the moment—because these conversations are dynamic and they’re happening at the speed of social,” says NetBase CMO Lisa Joy Rosner. “It’s all about understanding the customer—and where better to understand them than where they’re having honest conversations.”

The Channel: But what the customers are saying isn’t always what you want to hear—especially when it’s your brand mission to incorporate all your social learnings into the final product.

“In some ways it was interesting and in some ways it was terrifying,” Webb says.

First, Lassen used Insight Composer to drill down into the conversation happening around LEGO, ultimately identifying a quiet, but persistent base note of real-time social chatter related to Mindstorm, LEGO’s line of customizable robot kits. From that, Webb and his team uncovered a passion among its potential market for creativity and for tossing the instruction manual out the window in favor of innovation. To that end, Hänz kits don’t come with rigid step-by-step manuals. With just a handful of parts, it’s possible to use one’s imagination to create literally thousands of builds and constructions from a single Hänz set.

“When you look at LEGO, the passion really lives with Mindstorm,” Webb says. “There’s a following for the blocks, but there’s almost a religious order of Mindstorm people.”

Next, as part of its consumer VoC project, the Lassen team learned how important it is for toys to have an “educational deliverable,” especially for moms over 30—the main purse-string holders of the family toy budget. This is also what would give the product its versatility and make it a useful tool for Lassen’s business clients.

In its listening, Lassen also learned that the mom segment is extremely enthusiastic about Fair Trade, the green movement, and products “Made in America.” These were particularly pertinent—and somewhat painful—insights for the management consulting firm, since it meant having to produce Hänz in the U.S. But although it added significant cost to the process, it was a necessary step in bringing Hänz to the consumer market.

Last, using social insights, Lassen recognized the need to create a complementary collaborative online community where enthusiasts could chat, work together on original projects, compete, and share ideas. “Hänz would be a completely different product without social insights,” Webb says. “That’s the poetry of this.”

The Results: In less than a month after launching on January 1, 2013, Lassen sold out of its initial product run. The company projected sales of $3.8 million in the first year—which is not too shabby considering Lassen’s seed budget for the Hänz project was just $150,000.

According to NetBase, Lassen was able to reduce the usual cost of gleaning market insight by 43% by using the Insight Composer.

The Takeaway: The ultimate lesson, Webb says, is that if you listen, you will learn; and if you activate, they will come. Social insight done right is a marketer’s best friend.

“It’s really the most real-time and accurate read you can have on what your customers are thinking,” he says. “The number one secret to customer satisfaction is to understand exactly who your customers are and what they want—and at this moment in time, your customers are telling you exactly that all across the social Web.”

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