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The River guide to consumer generated innovation

The River guide to consumer generated innovation

At River we don’t believe that you can package ‘innovation’. The approach you take depends on your product category, target audience and organisational culture – as well as the geographic markets you’re operating in. But there are some ground rules you should follow that our experience and expertise allows us to map out in or infographic. This River Map is simply an aide memoire to ensure you’re involving the right people at the right time in the right way. It places consumer needs at the heart of the journey, building on experiences, opportunities and pain points and benchmarking this against the commercial reality of the client organisation. By taking this journey, we innovate and our clients receive achievable new product and service streams.

Click on the image below to view the full infographic.

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Research in Africa: a whistle stop tour

Research in Africa: a whistle stop tour

River has just got back from a whirlwind tour of South, Central and Sub Saharan Africa. We’ve talked Food, TV, Drinks and Technology. It’s been fun, exhausting, eye-opening and inspiring. A lot of trips follow the dull route of “hotel, cab, meetings and repeat”. But not Africa – Africa always has the ability to surprise you.   If you get the chance we highly recommend you go….


Here’s some of our favourite moments.



I spent an extortionate amount of money updating my Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccinations prior to travelling, only to then leave my medical card in my other passport (yes I have two!). When I arrived at Lagos Airport there were signs everywhere “no entry without vaccination card”. When I informed the helpful person at the health screening booth that I didn’t have my card he very nicely showed me to his office, where after a brief discussion and a small donation to a charity of his choice, I was fast tracked right through the immigration queue and waved on my way. So helpful of him! Ironically, this donation was substantially lower than what I paid for my vaccinations in London!

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Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time for a much needed hair cut


But Nigeria is a great place to do research. It’s populous, growing economically, and consumers know what they want. Research may not go like clockwork, but when it starts, consumers are all too ready to help deconstruct and reconstruct whatever you put in from of them. Don’t get put off by stories of low internet connectivity either, we’ve done plenty of online communities with consumers in Nigeria as well – where’s there’s a will there’s always a way.



Angola gave us the true pleasure of traveling to Cacuaco, just outside of Lluanda, through shanty towns and country roads, where we saw the famous Big Ship Graveyard – a shoreline of tankers and super tankers either shipwrecked or abandoned and left to rust away with time. My client and I strolled down the white sandy beach (strewn with litter) observing the fallen majesty of discarded and disembowelled sea faring monsters. It’s a sight I’ll never forget.

Africa 2


Back in research world we were interviewing TV viewers – females in the 20-40 category. Each entered the room more glamourous than the next – all too happy to tell us their stories and show us their public faces (and handbags). Angolan women really do glamour very well!



The Democratic Republic of Congo

We arrived in Kinshasa and went straight to the hotel only to find a very large military presence and an array of government dignitaries aligned in the entrance ready and waiting to salute us. As impressed as I was with our Operations’ team ‘concierge service’ I felt this was a bit over the top. It was only later I found out we were five minutes ahead of the arrival of the President who came to the hotel most days to go for a jog. Our route to the fieldwork a little later was obstructed by the tank placed in the carpark, but nothing gets in the way of River undertaking fieldwork!   Well, actually the local police did a little later when the local clients were ‘detained’ for taking photo’s of the Congo River. However, a small donation to a local charity later and the schedule was restored to normal service.

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The Congo River as seen from Kinshasa. Take photos very quickly!


The DRC is full of charm and character, a French speaking enclave that embodies the African spirit of optimism and resourcefulness.   We were warmly greeted whereever we went, and look forward to going back.


South Africa

What do you do after four days of intense fieldwork in Jo’burg? – Take the client on safari to the Rustenburg game park of course and on the way back stop at a brewery in Soweto for beer, a lot of local banter, and some highly drunken table tennis.

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No Tigers, but plenty of Lions…

And beers…

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Oh my!

As hoped, but still surprising, was the spirit of progress inherent in SA consumers. Whilst looking to the West for inspiration, National pride was paramount and a sense of a positive outlook for the future of the country created a warm backdrop for any discussion.



A week of fieldwork in Dar was blighted with thunderous rainstorms which unfortunately had the disastrous consequences of bringing the roads and phone networks to a standstill. Despite our first group starting an impressive 3 hours late, the relaxed and generous attitudes of our Tanzanian respondents was inspiring, with most wanting to stay longer to chat than the scheduled two hours as they were enjoying the discussion so much. Luckily, the clouds finally broke after the final group and River was able to enjoy a quick celebratory beer by the pool.

Africa 6


Ghana is, as the stats will tell you, one of Africa’s most promising economic growth stories. River was there this year on a project researching technology and telecoms and was once again impressed by the embrace of technology and the accomplished juggling of phones and networks by everyday consumers. “I’ve got more Sim cards than you’ve had hot dinners”, we were told in Accra. Which is true – especially as a vegetarian traveller (in much of Africa). Telecoms advertising is everywhere. WhatsApp has long been a primary means of contact for everyday business – something only recently being seen in a place like the UK.  Why not use it more? It’s how most of us are messaging.


Now, we often get a particular sense of accomplishment ‘on location’ when we learn (or steal) a new local phrase or word that inescapably spells out the national context. Word one for Ghana is ‘Dumsor’ (meaning ‘off-on’) , the rather playful sounding term used to describe the all-too-regular national problem of power cuts (not ‘playful sounding’ if you’re trying to run a hairdressing business or a garage, as I learn). The other is ‘Drop that Yam’ – the sparky strapline for a mobile network campaign that has entered the vernacular (and you won’t get more African for a veggie than a yam, right?). It originally referred to getting rid  of your bulky mobile handset, but can now refer to ditching unreliable partners and ineffective politicians. ‘Drop that Yam’. Perhaps we should start using it for unsuccessful product concepts or ad executions.  It’s refreshingly blunt, I’m sure you’ll agree.


Here’s the ad.


So what we learned:

  • River drinks a lot of beer!
  • Relax – things will happen – just in a different order and slightly different time to what you may be expecting
  • Avoid elections – You really don’t want to be trying to get across town on polling day!
  • Always look for policemen before taking photographs
  • Be prepared to laugh – our partners are people too!
  • Bring your own HD video cameras – and a sound mic!
  • ‘Everyone’ is online (Or at least Gens X and Y – thanks to the networks and Facebook zero rating data for Facebook). So social media is a key marketing activity
  • Cultures are changing. Women in particular are demanding a more equal place in society, and attitudes are progressing
  • Fashion and beauty really motivate female consumers. Marketing which provides a cultural window and stimulate ideas is highly effective
  • Western products still symbolise status and are aspired to greatly
  • But reality prevails – limited supply of goods and services, infrastructure issues, and informal bureaucracy can impact on things getting done properly. Brace yourself for what will be a unique experience.
  • And drop any Yams you may be carrying


To see more about River’s travel and International research experience please click here:


Come and join us on our next adventure.


Dive in!

Sorry To Be So Direct…

Sorry To Be So Direct…

I’ve always considered myself fairly tech-savvy, but First Direct have truly been challenging my levels of technological patience over recent weeks.

For 15 years I have been a very loyal customer of First Direct – the UK’s first ‘direct’ bank – and was always proud to have been one of the first ‘online bankers’ in my friendship circle. The bank is well known for its loyal, vocal customer base and has long been a case study in the power of word of mouth and customer recommendation. Over the years, other high street banks have, of course, become every bit as ‘direct’, but First Direct customers can still be heard gushing about phone access and queue-free banking like it’s 1999. Yes, we’re very loyal.

Until recently, that is. Since First Direct’s latest Mobile app and security features were introduced, the business has been testing this loyalty to destruction. In the past few weeks, I have been spending copious amounts of time on the phone to the customer help team: resetting passwords, resetting them again – oh, and then two days later re-setting them yet again.

I use my mobile phone for banking at least three or four times a week, but I’m now reduced to crying while sitting on the train, desperately trying to pay my Next Directory bill (another ‘direct’ pioneer, come to think of it), only for First Direct to tell me for the umpteenth time in a week that none of my security details match. “You must be entering your details wrong” I hear you shout. “NO, I’M NOT!”, I’ve told endless First Direct support staff.

I know that in the era of the celebrity hacker we do need to be careful and security-conscious, but spending 45 minutes, three times a week just to pay a simple bill takes security vigilance to the extreme.

Having delved around on twitter for answers like any self-respecting digital native (yes, twitter – I’m no greying technophobe), it’s quite apparent that I haven’t been alone in my misery with First Direct. Indeed, even the business’s chief exec has made a public video apology, recognising that the bank’s apps are ‘not as good as they should be’, but that the team are ‘listening to you and we’re going to fix them’.

It’s reassuring to hear this admission and I’m hoping to test the promise when my next Next bill needs paying. Until then, the experience has been a powerful reminder for me of how fragile even decade-long reputations can be when everyday functions break down – and how the same ‘word of mouth’ that elevated a brand can quickly turn against it. Over to you, First Direct.


Urban lens: River’s Gen Y Brand Engagement study is here

Urban lens: River’s Gen Y Brand Engagement study is here

Gen Y or Gen Why?

The digital natives, the millenials, the so called professional consumers…..To some they are the tech-savvy, well educated and ambitious youngsters who have the power and appetite to influence and change the world – Others, however, describe a fickle, disrespectful and hyper-demanding generation who have never learned to wait, work hard for anything, yet demand continuous feedback.

Whatever you think, this generation will significantly influence the next decade – society, politics, culture and business – in a way that is comparable with the baby boomers. In fact, by 2025 they will be 75% of the global workforce. But are you taking GenY seriously enough? Is your marketing ready to face this savvy generation?

River Research Online GenY Community

We set-up a 3 week online research community to immerse into the world of 20-30 year olds in the UK – an opportunity to learn about the lives, loves, needs and behaviours of this unique generation and which brands are successfully building affinity.

Click here to view our very own Gen-Y info-graphic and watch the video below to learn more about this unique generation!


For more information and a ‘GenY Brand Review’ please contact

Look out for our GenY blog entries over the coming weeks!

River’s Recipe For Successful Co-Creation

River’s Recipe For Successful Co-Creation

Over the years, River has been using co-creation for many innovation projects – from trying to design wearable technology to looking at new ways of cooking with cheese. We’ve co-created from Nigeria to Mexico with hipsters, new mums and problem-skinned tennagers. One thing has been consistent on all these projects: there’s no real consistency! 


To stick our necks out here, we’ve found the biggest challenge with co-creation is that everyone understands it at a conceptual level (rather like ‘Big Data’) but there’s a real struggle when it comes down to putting it into practice (exactly like ‘Big Data!’).


We’re a humble bunch at River and wouldn’t dream of trying to define co-creation for the insights industry – but we’d like to offer some advice and suggest a framework for the approach  to ensure our clients can sell the process in and manage the expectations of their own stakeholders.   So, based on our experiences, we’ve put an infographic together, to show how we have successfully shaped, baked and made co-creation work in innovation.  Please click on the infographic to explore and Enjoy.