case study:

How can the click of a button improve life at home?


Changing behaviour at home during the pandemic, and increasing pressure from competitors, challenged Whirlpool EMEA to take a new human centric approach to product ideation and innovation as part of their constant pursuit of improving life at home. Starting from real life insights, the region wanted to establish an innovation process anchored in consumer reality from beginning to end.


During the project, social distance was a necessity, but in the end this frustrating reality functioned as a creative constraint, pushing us to find innovative methods to realise this ambitious project. Across four markets, we researched life at home via interviews, action cameras and even hacked a medicine tracker technology. The insights came alive during online innovation workshops engaging more than 120 people across the organisation.


IS IT A BIRD supported Whirlpool EMEA through the front end innovation process from insights to concept development. Whirlpool EMEA not only succeeded in getting their strongest insights ever into the real worlds of consumers, but also ensured a broad anchoring of the insights in the organisation, creating awareness and new ideas in the first step of a new ‘close to consumer’ innovation process.

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From the click of a button to home appliance innovation.

”The consumer journey project that we did in collaboration with IIAB has created the highest awareness and interest in consumers’ needs and experiences to date.”​
Paola Fael, Consumer Insights Lead at WHP EMEA
the challenge

As part of Whirlpool’s constant pursuit of improving life at home, the EMEA region has the ambition to embed a fresh, consumer-centred product innovation process across six product categories. The consumer and market insights team had primarily informed marketing and branding, but as part of this new innovation approach, insights have a new purpose; to inspire and direct product development.

Insights used in product innovation cannot only rely on what consumers are able to articulate in online interviews or focus groups. Whirlpool needed an in-depth understanding of real unbiased behaviour including key pain points and delighters throughout the holistic kitchen & laundry journey, as well as specific product usage. The ambitions were high and three key focus points would ensure project success; first developing insights based on actual usage behaviour to minimise the bias of over-rationalised and memory-based story telling about behaviour. Second, understanding products in the context of consumers’ lives to unveil new opportunities and lastly, involving the organisation across product teams, functions, and regions.

"Home is where we experience significant​ moments of our lives and celebrate rituals that punctuate the cycles and rhythms of our social worlds. It is also, importantly, where the intimate and mundane aspects of our lives are lived out.”​
Sarah Pink, anthropologist & design researcher​
the approach

Overall, the project took a mixed ethnographic approach in order to understand both behaviour for five product categories; laundry, refrigeration, cooktop, oven and dishwashing, but also the social and cultural motivations connected to the observable actions.

To get the insights we needed we combined ethnographic methods. Through action cameras mounted on our respondents’ heads we achieved +1400 self-made videos capturing people’s real-life behaviour, pain points and use cases of home appliances. The videos were analysed along with 100 hours of follow up online ethnographic interviews, where we explored the drivers and motivations of using domestic appliances. We didn’t stop there, to understand the rhythms of appliance interactions through the day and week, we hacked electrical buttons used for medical tracking and had people install them on appliances, clicking for each interaction. Through this, we achieved a profound understanding of usage patterns from +16.000 data points of interaction.

The qualitatively identified needs and pain points for each category were validated through quantitative surveys resulting in a gap analysis of needs and performance analysis of the pain points.

As a key aspect to the impact of the project, we engaged hundreds of employees across the organisation. We invited stakeholders to observe and participate in the ethnographic interviews first-hand to deep dive on important aspects of the study, while others were invited into our digital analysis machine room. Finally, we facilitated an ideation process around the insights, guiding the five product teams through digital innovation workshops to generate hundreds of new ideas, based on real needs. The strongest were then developed into concepts which were evaluated internally before being taken further in the process. We were able to include more than 120 Whirlpool employees across functions and regions, ultimately populating the innovation pipeline with strong new concepts across categories.

”The best part about doing the laundry is pressing start on the washer and forgetting all about it.”​
Respondent, Nadine, 50, FR
The Result

The project has not only created a foundation for improving current appliance platforms. Uncovering unmet needs and aspirations has revealed new business opportunities and defined value propositions within product innovation, marketing and strategic direction.​

Our insights were packaged as both cross category strategic insights, category specific user journeys and opportunity spaces. The action-oriented deliverable packages provided a shared language for innovation across the organisation and were as the fuel for the innovation workshops. The strategic insights provided a direction for product categories and brands on positioning in a competitive market. The user journeys for each product category activated product specific innovation potentials functioning as a creative stepping stone to new opportunities and concepts. The resulting human centred innovation process has already produced hundreds of new ideas and is continuing its second year of application.

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Interested to find out more? Contact the


case owner

Katey Diamond
Director & Partner