Maaike Kammerman – Consumentenbond

Maaike Kammerman – Consumentenbond

Maaike Kammerman is the program-owner ‘attractive brand’ and works as a lead link in the circle brand and integral communications for the Consumentenbond. The Consumentenbond is the Dutch Association for Consumers, who stand behind and next to consumers, unconditionally. In their eyes everyone should be able to buy and use products and services with ease and security in an honest and safe market. They are best known for their comparative commodity studies, on all types of products such as TV’s, computers and washing machines. Innovation is a leading theme within the Consumentenbond, and they recently decided to change their organization structure completely. They changed into a holacracy, an agile organisation model based on self-managed collaborative teams (craftsmanship circles, proposition teams and strategic ‘what we need to achieve’-programs), all working towards a shared purpose and quarterly QKR’s.

Main drivers for growth

“Growth for us primarily has to do with an increase in the number of people that we have been able to help”, Maaike explains. “This is the precise objective of our renewed positioning, helping consumers make difficult decisions easier. This relates to all consumers – not only our members, even though these remain of key importance to us. Previously we were mainly looking at reach, which is easier to grab, but we want to ensure that we realise meaningful interactions. We measure this by combining the number of active (online) users and the NPS-score, and in parallel we measure the development of our mental availability.”

Claiming new domains to make difficult decisions easy
Maaike: “For a long time we have been able to benefit from our existing base of members, but we notice that it’s less easy to attract a new, younger, consumer base; people below 40 are less likely to enrol in a lifelong subscription relationship, and we need to offer new relevance for them.  The world around us has shown an enormous change in recent years. I can’t say that we stood still, but we haven’t evolved in the same pace as the world around us. Now that we have defined our new positioning, we are ready to start building again. An important component of that new positioning is that we will claim a more participating role, less standing on the side line as a linesman. Thus, daring to take more risks, and from time to time look for the edges. “

Maaike explains that one of the difficult topics the Consumentenbond wants to make easier, is finance. “A lot of people aren’t aware of their insurances, or about their pension. Often, they don’t want to pay too much attention to these topics, but at the same time, it makes them feel insecure. They would benefit from the help of a reliable partner. Although younger people may not feel a similar bond with the Consumentenbond as older generations have, our reliability is an asset that covers all generations. Finance is one of the 5 areas in which we want to build our presence; Getting in control on your financial situation. The other 4 include In control on your health, Energy-smart living, Smart and safe digital and Value for your money. Value for your money largely covers what we used to be known for, while a domain like Smart and safe digital is a new area for us – yet very relevant, as we see enormous differences in knowledge levels. Within these 5 areas we are now designing concrete proposition plans.”

Becoming easy to find

Maaike explains that the Consumentenbond’s new positioning is strongly inspired by Byron Sharp’s work. “Category Entry Point-based market research has made it clear that the single most important choice driver in the category is easiness to find. The Consumentenbond still has a challenge with this, we need to work to become the easiest to find.  I truly believe that our internal organisation is a prerequisite to achieve this presence. We are now working with shorter cycles, with design sprints and MVPs, that enable us to make more things happen. A good example is the MVP that we have developed for the Health insurance-season, which was based on the insight that a comparison tool not always helps people, but often requires a personalised recommendation. Our offer, with a personal call, proved to satisfy people’s needs much better. Instead of comparing over 30 elements that could theoretically be relevant for your choice, we helped people to address their key requirements. We have started this on a small scale and build on the learnings from that pilot to develop a tax-advice proposition. Step by step this will help us increase our presence and relevance. Based on what we have learned from consumers, we use workshops to address the opportunities from two ends; the proposition teams design what we want to offer, while the craftmanship circles think about the motivations that we need to address to achieve our goals; how can we ensure that our brand, and our communication channels are used in such a way that we become more available and relevant. We need to adjust to today’s requirements and differences in consumer needs – many people don’t want to read a long and balanced article about the product offer in a certain category but prefer a brief recommendation with links to read more.”

A high speed of innovation while holding on to our brand identity

“We are now in the stage of development in which we are starting a broad range of propositions, which offers excellent opportunities”, Maaike continues. “I believe that the recipe of starting small, based on an MVP, adjusting along the way and making it bigger, is the way to go. It is a challenge, though, to ensure that the brand identity develops in a stable direction and that it doesn’t get over-shadowed by the waterfall of initiatives. I am less cautious about differences between generations – the risk of alienating our existing consumer base while focusing on new innovations; we experience that older people are not that different, and that they often adapt well to new things.”

“For the concrete product ideas that we develop now we test the acceptance among consumers; we mostly do this within our own client panel, or in our community. A key question that we test is how people want to be helped; do they just want to get access to reliable information, or do they want to get more personalised guidance. For example: normally we conduct a general comparative test on headphones and make that available for everyone. However, the needs differ with the occasion; a consumer who is interested in using headphones on a plane could be better served with a more tailored selection.”

Balancing personalisation and privacy

“Major consumer trends impacting innovation are mobile first, and the increased need for personalisation. There are many opportunities to serve consumers better if we could use personalised data, and also using AI. At the same time restrictions on privacy related data are something that we definitely need to take seriously. However, this is a friction – we can’t live up to personalisation demands if we don’t have the data to personalise.”

Maaike doesn’t experience a lot of innovation pitfalls at the Consumentenbond. “Our new organisation puts us in a much better position to initiate innovation. What could be a pitfall is the eagerness to achieve short-term successes; we know that we should start small, and scale up next, but of course we would like to see rapid impact!”