Last week I gave a lecture to a group of Executive MBA students at Miami University. It was a fabulous new experience for me, having only done lecturing in European Business Schools until now. There were lots of great questions and many comments about why organisations do what they do when looking to innovate.
It’s always easier to identify the sub-optimal processes a company uses when you’re on the outside and even easier to suggest possible changes that are needed, but when you are in the heat of the action, it is not so obvious.
I therefore thought it would be useful to list some of the ideas we came up with, in the hope that it will help all those challenged to improve the status quo within their own organisations and to provide some new ways to look at innovating outside the box.
#1 What business are you in?
When you are looking to innovate, instead of starting with your own current technology and skills, or products and services, how about taking a step back and thinking about what business you are really in. Lego is a great example; they realised that they were not selling (just) toys; they understood that they were in the imagination business. Which business are you in? Do you have an opportunity to redefine it? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Food: Family Time, Neutraceuticals – offer family sized portions, children’s play areas, partner with another industry as Nestlé did with L’Oreal when creating Inneov
- Cigarettes: Personal Pleasure – tobacco companies should be going far beyond their current simplified expansion into electronic cigarette offerings
- Alcohol / Beverages: Fun / Relaxation: br and lounges, music, video or internet services
- Pharmaceuticals: Wellness – instead of curing or treating, offer prevention
#2. Can you add something new to an existing product?
Professor Steenkamp Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing and Area Chair of Marketing at Kenan-Flagler, proved back in 2007 that at least for Fast Moving Consumer Goods, small innovations (which are often referred to as renovations) can be just as successful as large step-changing breakthrough innovations. His research came to the conclusion that it was the ones that fall in the middle of “newness” that don’t meet with significant customer success. So what small changes can you make to your current offer to make it more appealing?
How about adding sound to a food, as Kellogg’s did with their Rice Crispies or Nestlé did by adding a layer of chocolate to the top of their cream deserts in France? Or what about adding smell to your outlet, as bakers and coffee houses already do these days, or Singapore Airlines did many years ago? A small change can have a big impact, especially if tapping into a different sensory perception from those customers are used to having stimulated.
#3. Can you add a service to the product?
Some products are actually designed to work with services, which are quite often the more expensive part of the sales equation (e.g. razors and blades or espresso capsules which are not only br and specific but can also only be bought online). However, there are other products that have provided additional services to their customers, by building upon their relationship with them, and boosting loyalty, even significantly in many cases. Examples include:
- Starbucks offer more than coffee; their outlets are a “home away from home”, offering comfy sofas, free internet, tables for working and meetings
- Purina offers pet insurance
- Gerber offers college fund investment packages
#4. Can you change the packaging to make it more convenient?
Observe how your customers are using your product in their normal daily lives, as well as the products of your major competitors. Identify issues they have whilst using it, or ways they compensate for a product that is less than ideal for them and then add this extra benefit not offered by your competitors. Some recent examples:
- Adding a simple h andle to a larger pack makes it easier for your customers to carry; these can be found on Dog Food and Toilet Paper, but not on all Cat Food and Kitchen Towels
- Repackaging your product into smaller or single portion packs, if this is how most of your customers are using it. Incidentally these single portion packs may find a further use in developing markets where the price point is important for attracting potential new customers.
- Inverting the tube of thick or creamy substances – as Heinz did for the Ketchup, or many toothpaste manufacturers did for some of their br ands
#5. Can you combine some of your current offers or extend a br and into an adjacent category
P&G have many examples of doing this very successfully, following the reduction in the number of br ands they offered about ten years ago. For example, they combined the sheeting action of Cascade & the water-filtering technology from PUR to create a spotless car-wash product under the Mr. Clean br and. Both Nestlé and Unilever have extended their confectionery br ands into ice-cream bars.
#6. Can you deliver the product or service in a different way?
Many airlines, including British Airways and Air France, now offer a fourth class on board their aircraft, premium economy / coach. The extra services they offer include priority check-in and boarding together with business class, as well as more legroom and better services on board than economy / coach.
Zappos has been built on service and they even have it in their slogan “Powered by Service”. They regularly surprise and delight their customers by offering express delivery for free. As their CEO Tony Hsieh is quoted as saying:
“Customer Service shouldn’t be a department;
it should be the entire company”
How could you surprise and delight your own customers by exceptional or additional services?
These examples have hopefully stimulated your own thinking, to take it outside your current innovation box. If you have other ideas, then please share them below; we would love to hear about your own creative examples.
However, if you would like support in reinventing your own innovation, why not do like many of our clients and start your journey in the fast-lane, by asking for a 1-Day catalyst session? We would love to catalyse your business to even greater success.
For more information on innovating brilliantly, please also check out our website: www.C3Centricity.com
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