Nivea’s Invisible Black and White – Social Media Synergy

cregan    February 16, 2015

Organization Name: Nivea Logo   Beiersdorf – Nivea Brand

Name of contact:   Beiersdorf  CEO – Stefan Heidenreich

Web References: BeiersdorfBeiersdorf CanadaNivea

Description on how Social Media is used for business Performance:

Companies know that they must continue to develop innovative products to keep pace with their competition.  Their goal is to find the next product innovation that will revolutionize their marketplace as Apple has done with the iPhone and iTunes.  Apple was able to significantly impact their market by transforming their value proposition.

Sandy Glass CEO & Founder of Innovations ROI delineates three classifications innovation in her Innovation Café podcast.  These Product innovation classes are:  Sustaining; Breakout; and finally Disruptive.

Sandy Glass

To hear more about these different classes of innovation click on the podcast “Types of Innovation”.  I believe companies are chasing breakout and disruptive innovation because they impact customers’ behaviours and early adopters’ are willing to pay a premium for these products and services.


Reaching out to customers/consumers for ideas and product/service feedback through questionnaire, focus groups and customer interviews is significant step in the product innovation process.  Businesses are noticing how Social Media is impacting personal and business collaboration through conversations and knowledge sharing about common interest and ideas.  Consequently; Product Development mangers are experimenting with Social Media in different areas of their product innovation and development life cycle.

Kalypso’s Amy Kenly and Bill Poston of Kalypso conducted research to “better understand how the worlds of product innovation and social media are coming together to provide new business value in the form of Social Product Innovation.  In their white paper “Social Media and Product Innovation” , the authors found Social Media was:

  • being used in some aspect of the company’s product life cycle to get more insight into how this new communication channel can help them;
  • mostly used in the front end of the product development cycle presently; and
  • adding value to companies with more ideas and requirements for their products.

A key finding of a company’s successful use of Social Media was a well-defined Social Product Innovation Strategy integrated into the company’s product development initiatives.

Kalypso’s short video entitled “Social Product Innovation: Its More than Facebook” Highlights the study findings of

  • 70% of the survey participants are using Social Media,
  • how they are using this channel; and
  • some benefits companies are achieving.

Social Product Innovation is being successful; however, a company’s product development process focus is shifting from the company to a consumer focus.  This type of innovation is called crowdsourcing, co-creation and open innovation.  How co-creation approach is impacting a company’s is highlighted below.

strategy shift presentation

Copenhagen’s Business School Assistant Professor, Rex Degnegaard’s complete presentation

Social Media is significantly changing companies’ approaches in how they manage their product life cycle.  Companies will continue to experiment and learn how they can best use this new communications channel and people’s willingness to collaborate.

To see how a company used Social Media to develop and launch a new product, we will look at how a Personal Care company. Beiersdorf in 2008 decided to involve consumers in the development of a new deodorant for their Nivea brand.

Nivea – Invisible Black & White Product Innovation Case Study:

black and white picture

Beiersdorf wanted to develop a new product that was different from any product in their existing Nivea product line.  This initiative was important to Beiersdorf to continue their history of innovative products and successfully competing in the competitive Personal Care industry where product life cycles are approximately about four years.  Beiersdorf has a history of bringing disruptive innovations to market when they focus on customer needs.

Nivea’s Goal:
Beiersdorf’s Nivea’s group wanted a new product to support their innovation strategy and product roadmap with a high priority for deodorant and antiperspirants staining.  Nivea decided to involve consumers in their product development process.  Towards this goal, the company partnered with a customer centric innovative company to understand needs, learn the consumer landscape about stains, and develop a new deodorant.  This co-creation process is outlined by Volker Bilgram in his slideshare presentation “Nivea Co-creation Process: the Case of the Invisible for Black & White Deodorant”

Co-Creation Process:
Nivea’s first step was to listen to the unbiased consumer conversations across more than 200 social media sites.  They wanted to learn about consumers’ experiences, concerns, habits, and opinions on industry products and brands.  A key challenge was figuring out which topics and conversations were important.  The outcome of listening to consumers was Nivea’s discovery of consumers’ interest in types of stains, causes of stains, and removal of stains.  With an understanding the consumer needs, wants, their language and concerns as well as ideas for a product, Nivea set out to develop ideas and attributes for this new deodorant.

Co-creation process’ next step was to involve consumers in evaluating the ideas from Nivea’s R&D group as shown in Volker’s presentation (slide 12).  During this process, Nivea also engaged and encourage bloggers to have conversations about the process and ideas.  In the end, Nivea’s research team understood that the consumers “wanted a product that apart from the deodorant not leaving any stains, the consumer wanted a product that would take care of their skin and clothes”.  For more information, see the case “Open Innovation at Beiersdorf:  the launch of Invisible for Black & White” (Case no. 514-05401).

With feedback about product and marketing ideas raised during the co-creation process, Nivea’s was able to use this information beyond new product development.  The consumers’ information helped shape and launch the Invisible Black & White Deodorant product.  Nivea also used social media to communicate their collaboration with fashion retailer ASOS to launch Invisible Black & White deodorant.  The campaign won 5 awards as an example of how to integrate consumer sponsorship.  This video provides an overview of the Nivea’s Social Media product innovation, successful results they achieved, and launch campaign .


For a more in depth description of Nivea’s co-creation process, is available in the article “Getting Closer to the Consumer: How Nivea Co-Creates New Products”  published Michael Bartl and other authors in Marketing Review St. Gallen

The Final Say:
Nivea’s Social Product Innovation process resulted in them bring a revolutionary product to the market.  Invisible for Black & White became the company’s best-selling deodorant in the company’s history.  This success story encouraged the company to use the co-creation process in other product life cycles.


Key Takes Aways from Nivea’s Experience:

  1.  Social Media use can be used throughout your product development cycle therefore you must decide how and where you want to use it. Stephanie Gehman provides some ideas in her article  “3 Ways to use Social Media for Product Research and Development”
  2. Social Media Innovation implementation needs a goal that is connected to your company’s product strategy and roadmap.
  3. Social Media will produce a gold nugget or two but you will need to work at separating the nuggets from the noise. Anita Campbell suggests ways to look for what consumers are saying about your business “9 Easy Ways You Can Use Social Media to Inspire Innovation”
  4. Social Media Innovation will impact your organization structure and culture through new communications channels. The company’s role in Social Media Innovation is to create a consumer community and maintain communications with them.
  5. Social Media Innovation will require new approaches for company leaders to consider. Barry Libert outlines why new styles are required and the benefits of having the right style “Is Your Leadership Style Right for the Digital Age?”
  6. Social Media Innovation has its challenges with developing strategy, people and culture, business processes, technology and practices. Amy Kenly expands upon these areas in “Social Product Innovation – Real Challenges and Real Solutions”.

Submitted by: Charlie Regan

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