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Playing The Play Along Game
channel 4
How observing fans of the TV game show, The Million Pound Drop, helped Channel 4 to maximise advertising revenue.

Channel 4 knew that the critics liked The Million Pound Drop Live’s Play Along format: BAFTA gave it an award for digital creativity in 2011. What its commissioners didn’t know was how the show’s viewers felt about, and used, the dual screen technology.

That’s where we came in. By observing viewers in their homes, we were able to show Channel 4 that people dipped in and out of the play along format, or created their own informal version of it.

These insights, while surprising, would help its commissioners to rethink the way they build the dual screen format into their game shows; innovate by offering it in other programme types; and, ultimately, maximise its advertising revenue.


Big Brother left big shoes to fill at Channel 4. But with its innovative concept, strong ratings and viewers worldwide, the Million Pound Drop has done a pretty good job of filling them.

The show’s USP is its dual screen technology. Allowing people to play along online (and, more recently, through smartphone apps) means they can experience the show as a studio contestant would: with all the accompanying highs, lows and edge-of-your-seat tension.

But Channel 4 was missing a crucial piece of the jigsaw – how the audience felt about and used the Play Along format. Without that, its commissioners couldn’t effectively plan how to use this technology across other types of programme. So they approached us to help them find the answers.


To understand the behavioural and emotional factors that made audiences take part in, or reject, the Play Along format, we spent evenings in the homes of fans of the show – observing and documenting their behaviours and emotions as they watched it.

We then used cultural analysis to map the high and low points in how people engaged with the show. The outputs of this work formed the basis for an innovation workshop with Channel 4 commissioners to create design briefs they could use for other types of programme.


Our work revealed that the Play Along format wasn’t as central to viewers’ experience of the show as Channel 4 had believed.

Instead of taking part throughout, we found that viewers were dipping in and out as suited them. They were pausing while they did something else, returning to the show late after channel-hopping during the ad breaks and even playing an informal game with each other (“I’ll bet you a fiver it’s that one.”) And because the show is live, pausing the TV while they made a cup of tea or took a phone call would put the show out of sync with its online version, so viewers couldn’t rejoin afterwards.

Our work also revealed that the length of the show (60-90 minutes) made it less likely for viewers to play along throughout. And that some people felt there weren’t any “real” stakes to play for.


Understanding how people really felt about, and interacted with, the Play Along technology helped Channel 4 to rethink how it uses multi-platform formats – not just in current and future game shows, but in documentaries, reality shows and news programmes. All of which has helped it to keep audiences engaged and advertisers happy.

cancer research
Seeing Charity Donors Differently
How we helped Cancer Research UK to find a new generation of legacy-givers.

At Cancer Research UK (CRUK), gifts in wills literally save lives: legacy-giving funds over a third of the charity’s research into how to prevent, diagnose and treat over 200 types of cancer.

But when the world’s largest independent cancer research charity approached us in 2011, four years of economic instability had caused legacy-giving to flat-line. CRUK knew that pushing the numbers back up again would mean looking at the whole topic afresh: from who it was targeting to the products it was offering that helped people to donate.

Our work helped the charity to shift the focus from just older people who were thinking about leaving a legacy, to including a new potential source of donations: people in their 30s.

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After reaching a peak of £2.3 million in 2007/8, legacy-giving to the UK voluntary sector dropped to £1.9 million in 2008-9 and stayed there for three years.

With such a large proportion of its donations coming from gifts in wills, this presented CRUK with a challenge: how to increase donations when the economic chips were down.

The charity already offered legacy ‘products’, such as help with writing wills and a free will-writing service for the over-55s. But it recognised that reversing the trend would mean introducing new products. And that meant understanding the cultural drivers involved in writing wills and leaving a legacy in them.

CRUK asked us to help them understand these drivers, and turn the findings into a set of insights it could use to develop new products.


We realised that to really understand the topic, we’d need to look at all the deep emotional and cultural factors that drive the way people feel and behave. So we used desktop research to explore the overall trends in charity-giving in the UK and worldwide. And we used ethnographic interviews to unpick people’s perceptions of charitable giving and will writing.

Once we’d gathered the data and cultural stories from the research, we held a workshop with our clients to go through our insights, and identify the biggest and best opportunities for creating new legacy products and marketing strategies.


While most people in the UK write wills in their 40’s, our research revealed a new group of potential donors: adults in their 30s. Not only are these people aware of the importance of writing wills, they’re also motivated by a desire to do something for charity.

We also learnt more about what builds brand loyalty at CRUK. Of the people already committed to leaving a legacy, we discovered that some wanted to have more touch points with the charity, such as an special updates on how it’s spending its money.


At the end of the project, CRUK had a far better understanding of what drives people to think and behave in a certain way towards legacy-giving and will writing.

Having a broader view of potential donors meant it could tap a new seam – a younger adult audience. And having a better understanding of what makes people loyal to CRUK meant it could reward those people more effectively for the gifts they’d committed to make in their wills.

Creating A Competitive Edge
How we helped The Coca-Cola Company to see sports drinks differently in three fast-growing cities.

When The Coca-Cola Company asked for our help in taking a fresh look at its sports drinks category, we knew that we could get the answers it needed from researching the cultural, behavioural and lifestyle trends in its target cities: Mumbai, Jakarta and Shanghai. And we could do it by first conducting desk-based research and interviews with experts, then running our findings through the filter of everything we know about anthropology, branding, semiotics and marketing.

The result was a new way of positioning Coca Cola’s sports drink category in these fast-growing markets: as a driver of both health and success at work.


The Coca-Cola Company needed a strategy for how to refresh its sports drinks category and double market share by 2020. But that meant understanding how the category (which included Powerade and Aquarius), was evolving in three of its fastest-growing markets: Mumbai, Jakarta and Shanghai.

To do this, our clients asked us to carry out a trends research project that would give them the insights and direction they needed to develop a proposition that would hold water in all three cities.


The project consisted of four stages:

1. Trends research: We used the internet, publications and the media to explore some of the trends that were shaping the sports drinks market in these cities. Then we looked at trends in related areas, such as lifestyle, fitness, sport, demographics and work.

2. Competitor review: To work out where Powerade and Aquarius stood in the market, and how they needed to change, we looked at the advertising, branding, media, design and semiotics of the competitor brands in each region, and the cultural codes they’d created.

3. Expert interviews: We took the insights that were emerging from the trends research and tested them with lifestyle, media and academic experts from Shanghai, Mumbai and Jakarta.

4. Analysis: We applied our knowledge of anthropology, branding, semiotics and marketing to analyse our findings, focusing particularly on consumer behaviour and lifestyle trends. This gave us a picture of the market on to which we could map emerging themes and opportunities.


After analysing our findings, one thing came through clearly in all three cities: there was a strong drive to be successful. And people valued being fit and looking healthy because this symbolised success.

But success wasn’t just about being fit and healthy. It was also about being focused and working hard. So to achieve the category’s aims, Coca Cola would need to position Powerade and Aquarius as both sports and lifestyle drinks.


This project allowed Coca Cola to see its sports drinks category differently in three key cities. And this, in turn, helped them to creating brand messages that reflected the cultural landscape of those.

Redefining Christmas
How redefining Christmas helped Hallmark Cards to create a new and successful product line for M&S.

How do you maintain a strong relationship with a client after nine successful years? That was the challenge given to us by Hallmark Cards Plc, the sole supplier of greeting cards and wrapping paper for Marks & Spencer.

We worked closely with the Christmas category at this design-driven firm to understand how the people who bought its products (“M&S mums”) really see the festive season: as a project requiring tight management and financial planning. And we helped them to translate what they’d learnt into design briefs for new products.

The result? A better understanding of the consumer, a fresh approach to the category and a new and profitable range of cards.


Over the years they’d been working with M&S, Hallmark had consistently delivered the high-quality products its client expected. But with a tagline of “Design, create, innovate”, this isn’t a firm that rests on its laurels.

The London and Bradford-based business asked us for help in breathing fresh life into the Christmas category by pinpointing new commercial opportunities. But it also asked us to help develop what it calls “that elusive spark of inspiration” that helps its designers to create original and inspiring products.


We understood that to get the best results, we’d need to take Hallmark on the journey with us. So we trained the company’s designers in how to take part in ethnography, and took them with us when we talked to and observe people in their homes.

We combined this approach with in-store ethnography, focus groups and an innovation workshop to look at the data together – involving the client every step of the way.


Our work revealed that, contrary to the client’s previous assumptions, M&S mums don’t base their Christmas card-shopping decisions on emotion alone. Instead, they view Christmas as something they need to structure, plan and execute; faced by the challenge of ‘delivering’ a family Christmas, they become project managers and financial planners, rather than emotionally driven decision-makers.

This means that, when they’re making decisions on what cards to buy, M&S mums use a kind of internal grading system to plot price against person.


By turning people’s perceptions of the category on their heads, our insights helped Hallmark to develop strategies and a product range it wouldn’t have arrived at alone. For the first time, our clients were able to understand and empathise with M&S mums, which helped them to ignite that “elusive spark”, and to create new products that appeal to those people.

These aren’t flash-in-the-pan changes, either: insights from our work remain at the core of product and marketing innovation for this category at Hallmark.

Building Innovation
How Ethnographic Research and Solution Thinking Disrupted the Construction Landscape.

Knauf is one of the leading manufacturers of building materials in the world. With 150 production facilities and sales organisations in over 60 countries, 26,000 employees worldwide, and sales of 6,27 billion Euro (in 2013), the Knauf Group is without doubt one of the big global players on the market.

Knauf realised that the market is based on incremental innovations and wanted to radically change how they approached innovation as an organisation so they could be ahead of the game.

They approached JCIS to show the value of using an anthropological approach to innovation and how this could lead to creating new insights for innovation.


The overall focus of the JCIS project was to compile a series of on-site ‘problems’ that Knauf as a business/region has the opportunity to solve with a collection of bespoke value-added products and/or services that can benefit both the customer and Knauf.

The project had to provide Knuaf with:

/ Comprehensive understanding of the benefit of using an anthropology approach to create insights for innovation.
/ Deep insights into the needs of their customers, energising Knauf’s innovation drive.
Begin to embed JCIS Solution Thinking within the organisation for future projects.


JCIS designed a bespoke anthropological and ethnographic approach which relies on spending time, observing and interviewing consumers and users over a number of days on a large building site in London.

We spent 8 days on-sits. During our time on site we meet, observed and interviewed Dry Liner Supervisors & Managers, Dry-Liners , Developers (Site Manager & Senior Managers), Electricians & Plumbers, Banksman, & Labourers.

This process enabled us to develop an in-depth and holistic analysis of how the Knauf brand and products were perceived, why different stakeholders held such views and how the products were actually used.

After the ethnographic phase we analysed the data and created a set of actionable insights. We then took these insights into one of our Solution Thinking innovation workshops with 25 European key Knauf employees so they could begin to develop solutions based on the insights.

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From our time onsite we developed over 20 key insights. These insights were developed from the observations and interviews we conducted with the people interacting with the Knauf system; from the coalface of installation to the site manager’s office.


Using JCIS’s Solution Thinking process the Knauf members who attended the workshop developed 8 group solutions suites comprising a total of 32 business, marketing and product solutions for further development.

Knauf are now working with Knauf Group R&D to instigate Group wide projects to develop more cost effective details which will provide productivity improvements for our customers whilst maintaining product and system performance. This has been an eye-opener for many with Knauf Group R&D.

This project has led to an improved relationship with both the main contractor and sub-contractor involved, and positioned Knauf as an innovative company to work with.

The Solution Thinking process to Innovation is now being rolled out throughout Knauf in Europe.

People Centred Health Innovation
health and pharma
How understanding patient and medical stories and experiences creates empathy and disruptive innovations.

We have carried out global research, trends reports and designed many co-creation and innovation workshops for our clients. All our work focuses on understanding the lived experiences of patients, carers and medical teams. We also have expertise in scoping key cultural trends that will shape the future of how we see health and disease. Projects and consultancy has focused on:

Understanding patients living with Diabetes Type II in the US and UK through ethnographic and trends research.

/ Creating new innovation possibilities that disrupt the international wound care market by conducing ethnography, focus groups and innovation workshops.

/ Creating new insights around the lived experience of living with Haemophilia in the US and UK so to increase empathy and develop radical innovations around product design.

/ Conducting ethnographic research in orthopaedic wards with the aim of increasing brand visibility.

Conducting a cultural trends report on the future of digital health and co-creating innovation workshops to scope opportunities with a Pharma company.

(Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of our work within Pharmaceutical and Medical device companies, we are unable to provide specific case studies at this stage).

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