10 Steps to Turn Trend Following into a Competitive Advantage

Most major organisations conduct some sort of societal trend following. It might surprise you to hear that I believe that this is a huge problem!

Think about it. They are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar reports. This results in them all working on the same ideas & concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services that will struggle to compete effectively.

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans, or launching similar offers? Now you know why.

Here’s how to avoid this and develop a powerful competitive advantage.

 

Market Evidence

I want to start by sharing just one example of the problem I just mentioned. Think back a few years ago and you will see that many companies started using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising. In Europe these included:

    • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – only in French & German but still easy to understand whatever language you speak.
    • Coke’s Say Yes to Love campaign.
  • Coke say yes to love

 

 

These are just three examples from very different industries, but I’m sure there are many others in the country you yourself live in. (If so do drop me a line, or share in the comments below, I’d love to hear about other examples)

Clearly the trend for more independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency. Or maybe they are buying the same external trend reports. It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?

Companies that develop concepts based upon this type of external resource alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them.

Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working.

So what can you do about it? The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations don’t take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many organisations don’t take, is to turn trends they are following into plausible future scenarios. #Trends #Scenarios #Planning #Strategy #BusinessDevelopment Click To Tweet

Scenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs.

Then, the new product and service concepts, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions that are developed are unlikely to ever be the same as those of the competition and will therefore have a greater chance of success.

 

Turn Trend Following into Future Scenarios

Organisation working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They all follow a similar pattern to the ten-step process summarised below:

Following the process as summarised above and also including all five of the additional criteria mentioned, provides the greatest chance of success in building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business.

If you have never done a scenario planning exercise before it may seem daunting, at least at first. Therefore, it makes sense to have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working with many of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning.

Don’t limit your competitivity by only conducting societal trend following. Turn them into proprietary future scenarios.  That will provide you with a real advantage. If you need help, let us know; we’re ready to support you. Contact us HERE.

5 Rules for Rolling Out a Successful Local Brand into Global Markets

I remember reading an article in the Financial Times a few years ago, that challenged companies to search for a new style of marketer.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that they were speaking about the current need for marketers to be both creative and tech-savvy. But they weren’t. They were referring to the growing demand for marketers who could take successful local brands to global fortune.

After all, thanks to the internet, we live in a global market and the recent pandemic has highlighted this more than ever before, with online shopping booming. The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today’s global economy.

The marketer who understands when local specificities make sense and when they don’t, is the one who will succeed in today's global economy. #GlobalMarketing #Brand #Marketing Click To Tweet

In this networked world, more and more successful local brands are attempting global roll-outs. What does it take to repeat the success you’ve had at market level when you launch globally? Here are my five rules to fortune:

 

1. Understand the Market and How It’s Changing

This is the basis of any new product launch and applies just as well to global rollouts as it does to local brand developments. Today’s customers are demanding, so find out as much as possible about them. Understand their rational needs but also their emotional desires, even if they don’t openly articulate them.

For global rollouts, additional information is required, including a comparison of the similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets. This is where trend following is of particular use, even if you haven’t (yet?) developed plausible future scenarios, as I recommend here.

 

Let’s look at some of the latest trends which are growing across regions today.

  • Conscious consumerism: Consumers have become much more thoughtful about what and where they purchase.  They support companies that demonstrate the same values that they have and brands are tapping into this trend with campaigns showing their position on various topics. Check out these examples of latest campaigns:
  • I want it now! Consumers and shoppers want information – and their purchases too! – where and when they need it. This has been the case for years. But now they expect to get near-instantaneous answers to all their questions, sometimes using visual search to identify and buy whatever they see, wherever they see it. Ikea’s Place App offers shoppers the possibility to snap an article they like and then see it in their home environment. Ikea also offers a visual search function for shoppers to identify an item seen in a magazine or real life, and then find similar ones. Dulux’s Paint Colour Visualizer offers shoppers a similar service; you can try out paint colours virtually in your home to see how it will look with your furnishings before you purchase it.
  • Personalised Experiences. Despite the desire for data privacy control, consumers are ready to provide their information in exchange for a better, highly personalised experience. ZozoSuit is one example in Japan which enables consumers to order clothing online that will fit them perfectly.

It is essential to understand why your local consumers purchase your product or service, and then compare their sensitivities to those in your new target market. For example, if individualisation and personalisation are important in your local market, are they important in the new market? If they aren’t, then you may risk an uphill struggle to gain acceptance and interest in your new offer.

If you’re new to trend following on a global basis, then a great place to start is with the annual Euromonitor International’s Consumer Trends Report. Their early 2022 report highlights trends revolving around two key themes – access and action. As they mention “Resilience and adaptability were tested in 2021, forcing consumers to relinquish control and embrace ambiguity. This year, consumers are taking back the reins and paving a path forward based on their passions and values.” However, the war between Russia and Ukraine, that is happening as I write this, will have long-reaching impacts on all countries and consumers. So I believe that we will continue to see last year’s trends of resilience and adaptability playing out. 

For global rollouts information concerning the comparison of similarities and differences between the customers in the local and future markets must be considered. This is where trend following can be useful. #GlobalMarketing #Trends Click To Tweet

 

2. Understand the Customers’ Perception

What does your brand stand for in the eyes and minds of your customers? Will the consumers in the new target market perceive the same benefits in the same way as your current customers?

If not, is this really a potential market, or are you just rolling-out there due to geographic proximity?

I am still amazed how many organisations base their expansion strategy on geography rather than the customer! It usually proves to be a big and often very costly error! Even large multinationals get it wrong, as the following examples show:

  • P&G’s Pampers was launched in Japan with the image of a stork which confused consumers. Whereas a stork is fabled to bring babies to parents in the west, this is not the case in Japan.
  • Mitsubishi (Pajero), Mazda (LaPuta) and Chevrolet (Nova) all had issues when rolling out their cars into Spanish speaking countries. Had they bothered to check the meaning of the model names in the local language, they would have avoided the negative connotations and the need to change the names of their vehicles after launch.
  • Ford (Pinto) had a similar issue with Portuguese in Brazil. The launch of the model was met with hilarity and mocking. Pinto is often used as slang for a man with tiny genitalia. Ford quickly changed the name from Pinto to “Corcel”, which translates to “stallion” clearly an attempt to (over?) compensate!

As already mentioned we are living in a global community today, so even if you don’t plan (for now) to launch in other markets, your image can still be impacted across the globe by a badly-chosen name.

The second issue concerning customer perceptions is the importance of particular traits in certain markets. For example, the actual price may be more important than quality in some markets. It may therefore make sense to offer a product in smaller sizes, such as individual sachets for shampoos or low count contents for dry products like stock cubes or confectionery. In some markets, value can be perceived as a consequence of packaging or after-sales service, in others not at all. It is therefore vital to understand the components of value in your current as well as the future markets.

The third area you will want to pay attention to is the image of both the brand and your corporation. Table stakes of categories can vary by country and what is important in one market can have no influence on purchase in another. In addition, the corporate image is at least partly based upon your company’s current category presence. If you have a reputation for cheap products, then you may struggle in launching a premium product, even if it is in a new category. Understanding a brand’s image from both perspectives is important to successfully rolling it out in other markets.

So you see just how much information you need to gather about your brand’s image and even your organisation’s before thinking about launching in new markets. Not doing your homework could cost the business a lot in terms of both a damaged image, as the above examples show, or worse still a costly failed launch.

Table stakes of categories can vary by country and what is important in one market can have no influence on purchase in another. #Brand #Marketing #LocalBrand #GlobalBrand Click To Tweet

 

3. Position Based on Insight and Human Truths

Local brands need a human truth to go globalEvery brand should have a positioning based upon an insight. And that insight should include a human truth. I write a lot of articles on insight development; just search on the blog homepage for a review of them all if you’re interested in learning more.

One of the most complete posts is “How the Best Marketers are Getting More Actionable Insights” and I would highly recommend reading it if you’re not totally at ease with what an insight is and how to develop one. And if you need more ideas, then why not take our short course on insight development?

One of the similarities that brings all consumers together is their basic human needs. Think parenting and wanting the best for your children, used by many, many brands, including Nestlé’s Nido and Unilever’s Omo / Persil.

Or what about women and their frustration with not being considered as beautiful as the retouched models they see in their magazines, which is very successfully used by Unilever’s Dove?

And how about men and their need to charm women, to affirm their appeal and attractiveness, that is used by Lynx / Axe from – you’ve guessed it – Unilever, again. (They really do know their consumers better than any other brand builder today and develop actionable insights for all their brands!)

Interestingly, Unilever is now tapping into the same concerns they used for Dove, for Axe. In addition to charming women, Axe now explains that men too want to look after themselves and their bodies. They have even coined a new word “bathsculinity” which they define as “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of young men who take pride in their appearance and feel confident in expressing their most attractive selves, inside and outside of the bathroom.” Check out one of their latest ads, quite different from their previous ones: “Axe Ice Chill – bathe on the wild side.”

Insights and human truths are used the world over in marketing and form the basis of many very successful roll-out communication strategies. Before you dream of taking your local brand’s success to global stardom, think about what human truth you are using to build it. If you can’t identify it, there is a far lesser chance of your repeating its local success in other markets.

Every brand should have a positioning based upon an insight. And that insight should include a human truth. #Brand #Marketing #Insight #HumanTruth Click To Tweet

 

4. Can You Use Your Local Heritage?

Many countries and regions have strong, stereotyped images that can play to inherent qualities associated with certain product categories coming from them. Examples of these include French perfume, Swiss watches, Russian Vodka, Italian fashion, German or American cars and Japanese technology.

If your brand has a strong positive association with local tradition or nationality, then make use of it. Even if consumers in the new market may be less aware, authenticity and tradition will still be strong sensitivities on which you can build your brand in new markets. (Just make sure you check trend levels of them before choosing the new countries into which you want to launch!)

IKEA brand logoIkea is one brand that has grown thanks to its Swedish heritage of clean, modern and uncluttered lifestyle that appeals to many around the world. It offers cheaper, flat-packed furniture and home accessories particularly popular for starter homes. They built their business on the global need of people for a secure and welcoming home.

By making their products in kit form, they could keep prices low and transport and storage were far less challenging than for traditional furniture. This also had the additional benefit of involving the customer in the construction of the furniture which made the article more appreciated than shop-bought articles, even if they were of higher quality.

Jysk logoAlthough Ikea is the best known Scandinavian furniture store, and a popular franchise that operates in over 25 countries, it’s not the only one. Jysk from Denmark was opened over 30 years after Ikea and today operates in 27 countries. It has not been as successful as Ikea and I believe there are several obvious reasons for this, starting with its name which many still struggle to pronounce – including myself!

Then there are the products which are bought rather than being made by Jysk as Ikea does, so the quality tends to be far more variable and generally lower. Denmark’s image is not as strong as Sweden’s either, although it is riding on the Scandinavian wave started by Ikea. And lastly, there is the Ikea Family. Jysk hasn’t tried to build a relationship with its customers, so there are no memberships or clubs, no cafes or restaurants to keep customers coming back. It is just a store like any other, whereas Ikea is an experience – even if we do all hate the forced in-store path!

In order to successfully roll out products and services across regions, it is important to know what local image you are portraying and whether it will have the same appeal in new markets or whether it will need to be adapted.  

 

5. Understand the Category

Many companies get their rollout strategy wrong because they look at geographical or linguistic proximity, rather than the closeness of the customers’ social sensitivities or behaviours in them. Just because countries are geographically close, doesn’t mean their populations are similar when it comes to category image and usage.

Kellogg's logoOne clear example of this is Kellogg’s Cornflakes launch into India. It failed because they ignored the Indian habit of having a boiled & sweetened milk rather than using cold milk for their cereals. Therefore the flakes went soggy and the consumers didn’t appreciate what had promised to be a crunchy breakfast cereal.

When planning product roll-outs, we also need to consider how alike the customers are in terms of behaviour, as well as the category trends, compared to the home market. This will help avoid disasters such as Kellogg’s Cornflakes in India. This could have so easily been avoided if marketers had taken the time to observe the Indian breakfast tradition. But they didn’t. They were a large brand and thought that consumer observation wasn’t needed; they paid heavily for this mistake.

Red Bull logo

In contrast, the Austrian brand Red Bull got its global campaign right – by not really having one, other than aiming, at first, for extreme sports and today moving more into elite sports! It adapts its advertising and promotions to fit each local market while still having the foundation of sports, adventure and risk-taking clearly integrated. In the beginning, most of their activities were focused around extreme sports, sponsoring flying, cliff diving, skiing and skateboarding.

Since those early days, Red Bull has expanded its activities well beyond sponsorship alone, starting its own events such as Soap Box Races and the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos programme, in which they funded the exploits of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner. It also has teams active in both Formula 1 racing and champion football with two teams in the first and three clubs in the latter.

 

So there you have five rules to increase the chances of succeeding as you roll out brands into new markets. Many companies have effectively rolled-out successful local brand into other countries in the region, if not the world. But many more have failed. What would you add to the above list to increase the odds in favour of a regional or global roll-out? I would love to read your own thoughts in the comments below.

This post is regularly adapted and updated, the last publication being in December 2020 on C3Centricity.

How Marketers Can Benefit From More Than Technology: Modern Marketing

Just like most entrepreneurs and business people, I go to my fair share of conferences. I believe that marketers can benefit from being regularly challenged by new thinking and ideas.

One that stays in my memory for many reasons, was an event I attended in San Jose, California. Some say California is the centre of internet marketing; the San Francisco area for technology and San Diego for marketing. I tend to agree after having recently attended events in both cities.

The conference that changed many of my views on modern marketing was one about how business people, not just marketers, can break through our self-limiting behaviours. It is this idea which prompted today’s post. How we marketers can relinquish our well-established thoughts and actions to make our businesses grow more profitably. If this is of interest to you too, then read on.

 

HEART-CENTERED VERSUS CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

The conference I attended in San Jose was a great opportunity for me to meet many other people from around the world. People who want to make their businesses more heart-centered. You know that I am a champion of customer centricity. I love to support companies that want to put their customers at the heart of their businesses.

So you might be wondering what the difference is between a customer-centric and a heart-centered business. After the conference, I would say that in my opinion, not much. I believe it is difficult to think customer first without it also involving the heart; at least, it should.

As we try to put our customers at the centre of our organisations, it is through a concern to satisfy and delight them. A heart-centred business would probably go even further to ensure that what they do also benefits non-customers, or, at least, doesn’t harm them.

Creating shared value has become a strong commitment of many of the leading global players in the consumer goods market. Reliance Jio, Merck and Bank of America lead the way according to the Fortune “Change the World” List.

If the topic inspires you then you might also be interested in reading an article on “Innovation and Creating Shared Value”, which I was invited to contribute to one of the first issues of the Journal of Creating Value. I will also be speaking at the 2nd Global Conference on Creating Value in New York later this year. So let me know if you too will be attending and we can meet up.

 

CUSTOMER FIRST EXAMPLES

But back to defining the types of business. Which is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet?

Which type of business is yours? Heart-centered or “just” customer-centric? Or are you not even there yet? #CRM #CEX #CustomerCentric #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

Do you think customer first but forget about those who are not yet your customers? That’s a dangerous thing to do as you may be limiting your brand’s potential. Here are a few current habits that some companies have, which show how customer centric they are – or not:

 

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic then I would highly recommend you follow Steve Aitchison, as well as read a wonderful guest post there by Kathryn Sandford called “ 3 Strategies to master the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back in life.” Enjoy!

 

Please share your own ideas and inspiring quotes below. Let’s support each other to be more authentic.

 

I regularly work with clients to help them be more intuitive in their marketing. This can be through keynotes, meetings, talks and training. Find out more on our website and then contact me here:

https://c3centricity.com/contact

 

 

Winning customer centricity for marketersThis post includes some concepts from my book Winning Customer Centricity.

It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy a copy from our website here, as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook, iTunes or in any good bookstore.

This post is an update of one which first appeared on C3Centricity in April 2016. See the original post here.

 

 

/winning4marketers

5 Business Success Factors (So You’re Ready for Anything!)

We are sweltering in the Northern Hemisphere with record temperatures, so here’s a “cool” idea on how businesses can get ready for anything by applying these success factors.

Every winter, the media is full of stories of record snowfalls somewhere in the world, whether in the US, Europe or in the Far East. Despite all the sophisticated technologies at our disposition, we just never seem to be prepared. So what are the success factors of readiness?

Remember winter storm Juno in the USA in 2015? It dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Eastern coastline of North America. According to the Weather Channel its snowfall broke records in Worcester, MA, although in most other places it fell far below that of other storms from 2013 all the way back to 1978.

In the same year, in the North of the UK, the region was battered with a rare blast of thundersnow – an unnerving combination of thunderstorms and downpours of snow. As if that wasn’t enough, they were soon preparing to do battle with the elements with yet another storm shortly afterwards.

Now what do all these storms have to do with business you might wonder? Well for me they are a great illustration of the problems that many companies can face from time to time. Governments and city maintenance teams prepare for winter by organising vast stocks of grit and salt, as well as heavy snow-clearing machinery. But despite all this preparation, they still seem to be caught off-guard when they need to use them.

The same goes for businesses. Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they’re not!

Companies follow trends and expect to be ready for anything; they're not! #trends #scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

The reason is that there are two serious problems with that way of thinking:

Firstly they are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar trend reports.

And secondly, they think that knowing the trends will somehow protect them from future risks and catastrophes. However, having the right material still doesn’t stop bad things happening, as we’ve seen this winter. 

So let’s take a look at what you can do to be better prepared and not get regularly “snowed-in” as many countries are this winter.

The Problem with Trend following alone

As I already mentioned, trend following suppliers are providing almost identical information to all their clients. This results in their clients then working on the same ideas & concepts and eventually launching very similar, non-competitive products and services. Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their advertising? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. 

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans in their ads? Simplistic trend following is probably the reason. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To Tweet

As an example, think about how many companies have used the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising in the past couple of years. These include:

  • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – sorry only in French & German but still easy to understand
  • BMW 320i YES, YOU, CAN
  • Orange telecom mobile exchange

Clearly the current trends of independence and freedom have been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above, and probably many others as well. Perhaps they are working with the same trend following company or advertising agency, or are buying the same external trend reports? Whatever the reason, their advertising is likely to lead to consumer confusion and I myself would be interested to see which one gains from the strongest association with the exact same advertising “Big Idea”.

Companies which develop concepts based upon theses types of external resources alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them. Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working for the consumers.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations forget to take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #BusinessPlanning Click To TweetScenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs. Then, the new product and service Big Ideas, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions are unlikely to be the same as those developed by the competition.

 

How to turn Trends into Future Scenarios

Businesses working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They often follow a similar pattern to the one summarised below. In just ten simple steps you can turn your trend following into a powerful competitive advantage that will surprise competition and delight your customers.

  1. Recruit a diverse team of internal experts from different areas, levels, and cultures from within the company.
  2. Identify the major questions management is asking about their future business.
  3. Identify the most important trends for the category, br and or area under review; ensure these include STEEP ones (social, technological, economic, environmental, political).
  4. Extend each trend into the distant future, five to ten years at least.
  5. Collide the resultant developed trends to produce the most likely changes.
  6. Note the major forces that come into play as a result of these changes – this is what is important.
  7. Agree the two most critical forces and using them as axes, create the four future worlds, the scenarios.
  8. Identify either the most likely of the four and fully develop this world, or summarise the four worlds and their major similarities and differences.
  9. Develop stories to transmit the impact on the business should each (part of the) scenario happen and the decisions that management must face now to be prepared.
  10. Plan how markets will identify the most likely scenario for them and follow the relevant trends in order to be best prepared.

 

This ten-step process can be followed over a minimum of a two or three-day workshop, or over a longer period of development lasting several months. For a more detailed 10-step process, you might like to also check out a previous post on the same topic: “The Great Trends Hoax: The don’t give business a competitive advantage”.

 

Success factors

Following the above ten-step process will ensure you make the right review and involve a diverse group of people to get the needed differing perspectives.

However, from my own personal experience, there are a number of additional success factors that need to be met in order to guarantee the most actionable scenario planning exercises. These include:

  • A diverse internal team who are both enthusiastic and curious about future changes within their organisation, category or business area.
  • An excellent creative to lead the process, ideally from outside the company, in order to push far beyond the internal comfort zone.
  • Executive management support of the exercise as well as of  its outcome and most importantly their pre-agreement to own the resulting scenarios.
  • Being able to turn the scenarios into compelling narratives and using story-telling to ignite change within the whole organisation.
  • Sufficient resources to share the scenarios with all markets and to engage their commitment for the continued measurement of the trends in their own businesses, as well as the sharing of their learnings with other markets on a regular basis.

Following the process as summarised above and including all five success factors mentioned, will give you the best chance of building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business. If you have never done the exercise before, it may seem daunting at first. Therefore it makes sense to ensure you have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working for some of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning. Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. 

Don’t limit your competitivity by only following trends. Gain the advantage of future scenarios. #trends #Scenarios #Business Click To Tweet

 


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If you and your team are ready to turn your trend following into an actionable tool that delivers true competitive advantage, then we should talk. Book a complementary advisory session in my agenda

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This post is based upon one which first appeared on C³Centricity in October 2015 under the title “Turning Trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-Step Process you Need

A Customer-First Approach to Successful Innovation (and 3 Secrets Shared)

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Whether you believe that 60% of new product launches fail, or the number is 80% or 95%+, the truth is that successful innovation is rare. Why is this? Read on for my own ideas of the reasons and propositions for some simple solutions.

Last year I wrote a highly popular post on “Improving Ideation, Insight & Innovation: How to Prevent Further Costly Failures.” In it, I spoke about the importance of starting the innovation process with customers. I also mentioned that it should be a virtuous circle rather than the funnel that most organisations still use today. 

This time, I want to examine the role of the customer in successful innovation. And why they should actually have a prominent position throughout the process.

 

Start with the Category rather than (just) the Customer

Every customer-centric organisation should start their processes with a review of the customers they are looking to please. But to do this, the first step to both insight development and successful innovation is to identify the category in which you are, or want to compete. Especially when looking to innovate, it is vital to identify what business you are in.

Now you probably can immediately answer that question but would you be right?

A recent client of mine was looking to launch a juice flavoured soft drink. They naturally (?) thought they would be in competition to juices. When we dug deeper, using our “Home or Away™” decision tool, we found they were actually competing with energy drinks for athletes!

Another practice I use is to zoom in or out when looking at a category, in order to identify new opportunities. Today’s technological world is forcing many organisations to take another look at their complete business models – whether they like it or not!

  • Telecoms have become geolocalization data providers to other industries.
  • Pharmaceuticals are being forced (?) to move from treating illness to maintaining wellness.
  • Food companies are moving into nutraceuticals, concentrating the health benefits of certain foods. (have they really only recently understood that our health comes primarily from the food we eat?!)
  • Tobacco companies are reinventing personal pleasure systems with e-cigarettes and other tobacco replacement products. In fact, André Calantzopoulos, Philip Morris International’s CEO recently predicted a “phase-out period” for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol providers are turning more and more to lower and non-alcoholic drinks trying to keep up with the interest in wellness. They have understood that whereas drinking is a social behaviour, most people no longer include getting drunk with that sociability.

From these examples, it is clear that most companies could benefit from a re-evaluation of their assumed category, to see whether it has or will change in the near or longer-term future.

Once the category is defined, it becomes much easier to identify the correct customer segment to target. Of course, you still need to get to know them through customer connection sessions. And then complete both a customer persona and journey map for them. (You do have these don’t you?)

 

Your business is or will change – fast – so don’t depend on your skills alone

One of the problems I see when I first start working with a new client is that they start their innovation process from their strengths, their technical and product skills. While this may deliver quicker introductions, it is more likely to produce renovations and certainly not ground-breaking innovations.

This is such a standard “no-brainer” way of innovating that many companies find themselves out of business as a result.

  • Kodak thought it was in the photo business and not in the memory and souvenir business. They consequently lost out to digital, despite having the technology
  • Borders thought they were in the print book business rather than the storytelling business. As a result, they lost out to Kindle, despite a late reaction with the launch of Kobo. For now, Barnes & Nobles have managed to join the race with their Nook, but for how long? It will be interesting to see whether Amazon’s quiet expansion of its physical bookstores will support or sound the death knell for other outlets.
  • Blockbuster video rental lost their dominance of the home entertainment industry to streaming options like RedBox and Netflix.

These are a few examples of businesses that have changed, leaving the category leaders high and dry with no-one to blame but themselves for their lack of scenario planning. (This won’t happen to you, will it?)

Music trends on and offlineAnd what about AI and VR and their impact on TV,  gaming, music today?

Speaking of which, look at the graph on the right which shows the incredibly fast change from offline to online music. In less than ten years online passed offline and all but annihilated it!

This is how fast and well prepared all businesses need to be today.

Many industries have been cloned into totally new businesses as a result of technology and new customer priorities.

As already mentioned, Telecom companies now make more money selling geolocalization data than they do selling phones and lines.

So what about some other industries that are being impacted by changes in customer behaviour and preferences?

As just one example of this, Food companies must now adapt to delivering family time, not just ready-made meals. There has therefore been an explosion in meal kits because families want to eat better and even prepare together.

 

The future of the future

But enough about the past and present, how can you prepare for the future and have successful innovations? What new areas are some of the larger online companies buying into today and why?

Google has gone from Internet-related products and services to hardware such as Pixel smartphones and Google Home, an Amazon Echo-like device. It has also expanded into a multitude of other industries, through partnerships and investments. These include energy, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and eye-tracking. It’s clear that they intend to stay up-to-date if not ahead of fast-moving trends and be ready to take advantage of them. Read more on Wikipedia.

Perhaps in preparation, in the last year or so Google has reorganised its various interests into a conglomerate called Alphabet. Google remains the umbrella company for Alphabet’s Internet interests, but this restructuring no doubt announces more to come.

Virgin has gone from airlines, media and entertainment, to travel, health and aerospace. You can read about all their industries and investments on Wikipedia.

Amazon has gone from an online bookstore to the general retail of a vast selection of products. Today it is testing bricks and mortar stores for both books and general groceries. You can again read more about this on Wikipedia.

Facebook started as a social media and networking service. One year ago, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed his ten-year vision, centred around artificial intelligence, global connectivity, VR and AR. Read more on Wikipedia.

Tesla started in the automotive industry but has since moved into energy storage and residential solar panels. Today it is advancing into underground high-speed transport and space travel.

All these examples show the importance of being ready to adapt to fast changes impacting many industries at lightning speed. We no longer have the luxury of time to wait, watch and learn as we once did. Future scenario planning is the only way to be ready for all eventualities and to be able to quickly jump into any new opportunities before our competitors do.

 

Your next steps to future-proofing your innovation

Some of my clients understand that they are not as well-prepared as they need to be for successful innovation. In my training course I propose many different ideas; here are just a few of them:

#1. Working with new innovation levers

As already mentioned, most organisations start innovating from their past successes and current skills. While this is certainly quick, it is unlikely to lead to successful innovations. Why not challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective? 

Challenge yourself to look at your business from a new perspective. #innovation #Business Click To Tweetsuccessful innovations come from using multiple levers

The diagram on the right is a simplified example of the innovation wheel that I use in brainstorming sessions with clients who are tired of thinking within their boxes.

A personally adapted and developed wheel is a powerful tool to get people to think differently about their brand, category or offer. The brand expansion it encourages has seen brands like:

  • Gerber and Purina move into insurance.
  • Nespresso move into china and chocolate.
  • Mars move into ice cream.
  • Vicks (P&G) move from various cold remedies into a sleep-aid.

What all these examples have in common is a deep understanding of both their customers and their own brand image.

 

When one or both of these are missing, you get epic failures like the examples below:

Coca-Cola Clothing: while it may work for sponsorships and promotions, clothing didn’t work for them – this time around?

Coca-Cola clothing nor successful innovation
Image source: eBay

Zippo perfume for women: Zippos got it spectacularly wrong with this offer on many fronts. Smoking and especially Zippo lighters have very masculine images. Replacing the wonderfully exotic and luxury glass bottles of perfume by this was never going to work!

Zippos perfume not successful innovation
Image source: Fragrantica

 

Colgate frozen food: The only thing that frozen entrees and toothpaste have in common is that after the first you need the second! From that to expecting consumers to make the jump from minty mouths to chicken was just too much!

Colage entrees not successful innovation
Image source: Marketing Directo, Madrid

 

 

#2. Zooming out for brands and categories

When you are successful in one category, it can be tempting to extend into others. However, this needs to be done after careful thought. Go too far from the parent brand, as the above examples did and you’ll be doomed to failure. Stay too close and you’ll not benefit from anything more than a mere renovation.

Will BabyNew be a successful innovation?
Image source: BabyNes

Companies which expand successfully are those that build on their strengths, whether image, position or technical know-how. One example I like to share of a successful innovation using this idea comes from Nespresso’s owner Nestle.

They expanded from capsules for coffee (Nespresso) into capsules for both hot and cold drinks (Dolce Gusto).

Nestle then expanded their systems into BabyNes, a capsule system for bottle feeding.

I can imagine they will be looking to extend their system even further in the future. Perhaps they will consider adding minerals, vitamins and supplements to food and drinks, or targeting specific groups of consumers such as seniors or athletes. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

 

#3. Zooming into a category niche

It is possible to innovate by zooming in rather than out of the category in which you are in. There are again many examples of this since, in theory at least, it is simpler to do. You already know the category customers and can segment to appeal more strongly to certain groups of them.

Food manufacturers use this strategy a lot. They often extend into low calorie or low fat, and more recently into gluten-free, OMG-free or lactose-free offerings.

Online marketers depend a lot upon finding the right niche for their product or service offer. They have the advantage over bricks-and-mortar stores of collecting a wealth of personalised information. Together with machine learning, they can quickly develop algorithms to precisely target each person with relevant offers. Offline retail will never catch up, however long they collect data – unless they have an online sales strategy too, of course.

 

Conclusion

So there you have some ideas on how you can improve the frequency of launching successful innovations. Whether working with scenarios, innovation levers, zooming in or out, the one element every strategy has in common is customer understanding. You wouldn’t expect anything less from me, would you? Going forward just remember:

  • It’s important to know and understand your customers intimately today but also how they are likely to change tomorrow.
  • It’s important to understand the category you really are competing in and what customers think about it.
  • It’s important to understand your brand’s image and ensure it’s aligned with any future innovations you consider.

 

What new ways are you looking to successfully innovate in this fast-paced, constantly changing and challenging world? Please share your ideas and thoughts about the above ideas or add new ones below. Thanks.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

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