Reviving Fortunes with Jobs-to-be-done Research: How Reckitt Met the Challenge of a Dying Category

Within months of Meryl Debrosse’s first starting as Global Insights & Analytics Manager – Enfa at Reckitt, the category of toddler formula was losing market share by the day. Recent news had come out saying the product was unnecessary, and the product’s fortunes faced other strong headwinds as well – for one, there hadn’t been research done in the category as of recent.

Meryl received a brief from the brand team for a concept that needed testing – but due to the pressures of tight deadlines, the team ended up writing a brief before actually getting any research back.

It’s a very real possibility within any category – even the best marketing research programs, under tight deadlines and maintaining the status quo, may find themselves stuck recreating the same ideas time and time again, leading to the need for fresh perspective on the category to bring to creative teams. This was the case at Reckitt when the company started working with Protobrand.

With the help of the Protobrand team, Meryl and Reckitt decided on a three step approach to revive their fortunes in the dying category:



A science-backed Jobs-to-be-done approach



At Protobrand, we believe that human truth, as it relates to consumer products, has three dimensions: Doing, Feeling and Being. In order to understand why consumers buy what they buy, we need to understand how those products and brands fit with the consumer’s own “identity project”. This ties into symbolic properties that do not often emerge when using traditional research methodologies.

We are particularly interested in system 1 insights – those consumer thoughts and feelings that are subconscious, instinctive, and effortless. Our proprietary methodology taps into this data using metaphor elicitation, which is backed by behavioral science.

Involving photo elicitation, a validated image library based on deep metaphor and emotion theory, and the help of AI, the benefits and features of this method include:


  • Uncovering deep-seated thoughts and feelings through visual metaphors
  • Ability to capture authentic consumer voice at scale
  • Qualitative data analysis (facilitated by AI) to identify emerging and salient respondent driven themes


In essence, our researchers collect hundreds or thousands of authentic consumer stories, and use Artificial Intelligence to systematically analyze the data and identify themes from those stories. The data is rich, with 25 words or more per response – and results are then reported on a quantitative basis. With Reckitt, the research focused on understanding the identity projects of mothers in order to best understand where the brand fit in.


The Result


Through Protobrand’s unique research methodology, the client was able to identify 4 distinct personas, supported by rich data, from a large sample of parents. Each theme was supported by detailed customer language, with answers evoking deep seated desires surrounding the care and nutrition of toddlers. From there, the brand team brought the personas to their advertising agency.


“Out of this research, the team came up with 4 personas that we could take to our advertising agency so that they could come up with a campaign. They were super excited. ”

Meryl Debrosse, Global Insights & Analytics Manager – Enfa


Ultimately, one persona was chosen to create a campaign that addressed the identity, emotional, and functional needs of the caretakers of toddlers. As Protobrand Founder, Anders Bengtsson, PhD, mentioned in the presentation of this work at IIEX Europe, “Most marketers tend to think about the functional and the emotional, but the full story is that there is something called symbolic properties, meaning that the identity related to the consumer is very important to uncover.”

For the work with Reckitt, the Jobs-to-be done for the focus persona included addressing parents’ identity projects as they relate to feeding toddlers. In fact, the research found that parents’ symbolic identities often involve a feeling of inadequacy in this area. After digging deeper into this identity need, the brand now understood a key job-to-be done – helping parents to feel like they are not only meeting, but exceeding the needs of their role.


Interested in seeing all four personas uncovered by the Jobs-to-be-done study? Check out the full presentation of this work at IIEX Europe 2024.