Liz Zwerver – Brabantia

Liz Zwerver – Brabantia

Liz Zwerver is the Director of Value for Brabantia. She is responsible for marketing and innovation at the international interior design brand, with its roots in The Netherlands. She manages renewal for both the product portfolio and the brand. Brabantia sees innovation as a vital part of their company strategy and employs a consumer centric way of working. They see innovation from the eyes of the consumer and as a means to become more sustainable.

“Growth from innovation needs to contribute to the overall vision and growth of a company.”

Salience and sales as the main KPI’s

When it comes to brand growth, Brabantia’s main KPI’s are brand salience and innovative sales. Liz: “We focus on select categories and markets, and put extra attention, resources and measurements on those focus points to grow our brand.” According to Liz, while Brabantia’s innovation department is measured on the growth from new products, brand growth doesn’t stop there. Liz: “You innovate as a company, and newly introduced products aim to be successful. But innovation can also come from a new marketing approach like our ‘Love Nature’ campaign for rotary dryers. Growing overall sales, and building the brand is an integral part of our innovation plan. To me, it’s very important that innovative growth contributes to the overall growth of a company.”

Innovating to increase salience…

Innovation is an important driver for Brabantia’s growth. Liz: “We innovate for two reasons. Growing the brand by being present in the minds of the consumer, having salience, is the first one.” Brabantia have introduced a new way of measuring salience, which is inspired by the work of Byron Sharp. “We debated for a while how to measure it. Is it a certain entry point we claim as a company? Is it top of mind awareness? Is it consideration, or whether people have bought your product in the end? After all, you can be top of mind, but not succeed in conversion in the end. We chose to measure on 3 levels: bought, sought and thought. In the countries we are newly present, we focus on increasing awareness. And in markets where we already have a certain level of awareness, we want to win the conversion battle.”

…and availability

Liz: “The second reason we innovate, is to increase our brand availability. Physical and mental availability are key. We increase our physical availability by adding more square feet in stores we are already present. And when it comes to online, you need to be found. Next to that, you need to be in more stores, at more retailers. Innovation is a great way to make this happen. You have a great story. When done right, innovation fuels the physical distribution and reach. A great example is when we introduced a new waste bin. Our vision revolves around ‘designed for living’. This led to us introducing a waste bin that looks like a piece of furniture. We brought something practical and an interior design element, together. And while we introduced it 3 years ago, people don’t buy a waste bin every day. So still to this day when we introduce it to focus groups, the reveal moment is always met with those ‘ooooh’s from our consumers. To me, that’s when you know your innovation is a success. Linking both physical and mental availability to something you claim in the mind of the consumer. That’s why we innovate.”

Moving people to innovate

Liz sees innovation from two different angles, solving a problem of the present, or coming up with something completely new. “When we innovate, sustainability is a very important factor. How does the consumer live in the present, vs. how could we help them make a contribution to a better world? You can study the progressive consumers, those leading the pack or look at why people don’t shower for a shorter amount of time, or don’t separate their waste. You can take away those barriers, and uncover new benefits or you can look at the lead users and try to find a success story. If we share that with others, more people will follow.”

How we innovate

Brabantia’s innovation process revolves around 3 values: beautiful, sustainable and pleasurable. “If we can’t comply to those 3 things, our innovation doesn’t qualify. We look at this very early on in the innovation process.” When it comes to the main sources for innovation, trends play an important role. “There are trends based on interior, usage, habits, the need for ease. But sometimes trends don’t necessarily come from consumers themselves. For example, the government that says: ‘You need to separate your waste’. We always innovate within a certain chore cycle in mind, for example doing the laundry, or doing groceries, cooking, cleaning up, caring for yourself, or separating your waste and recycling. And we innovative the with consumer’s homes in mind. The living room and kitchen used to be separate spaces, today many people have living kitchens. Living spaces change over the years, and with that, how people use these spaces. This is a more long-term trend. And then there are the short-term trends such as colours and materials to take into account. Incorporating the combination of those trends is a key to how we innovate.”

Consumer research

According to Liz, Brabantia has a continuous flow of consumer research. “We put our products to the test with consumers at home before we introduce them, and follow them for several years. And we use focus groups in the innovation process, to introduce products, like with the waste bin. And in everything we do, we take sustainability into account. Going back to the waste bin, we designed it to separate your waste. The product design itself also aims to minimise waste. We focus on durability from the start of development, and many of our products are designed to last as long as the consumers want them to. The waste bin for example has a life span of approximately 20 years, and many parts are replaceable. On top of that, the product itself is made in part of recycled materials. New products are cradle to cradle bronze, and we use sustainability as an anchor throughout the entire innovation process.”

The ‘Oooooh’s’

Liz explains that Brabantia looks closely at their consumers in every stage of innovation brand growth. Liz: “A successful innovation revolves around sales on one hand, but also very much revolves around those ‘oooh’s I talked about earlier. We want to keep surprising our consumers. At the end of the day, our products revolve around chores. We do our very best to make those chores just a little bit nicer, a little more pleasurable by providing beautiful products that work perfectly and contribute to a more sustainable tomorrow.”