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The New Way to Innovate You Must Start Using Today!

When I get several requests in the same week on exactly the same topic, I know something is happening in the marketplace. This week was one such occasion.

A Pharma company wants a presentation on it; a CPG company asked me to give a half-day workshop about the topic; a conference requested a keynote speech about it; a major US business school wants a guest lecture covering the idea  and a consumer goods company wants an article for their newsletter. What’s the topic? The new ways to innovate, that’s what.

With all this interest, and despite having written some popular posts in the past on best-practice innovation, such as “ How to innovate more creatively”, “How to get R&D as excited about consumer innovation as you are”  and “Never succeed at innovation: 10 mistakes even great companies make”, I thought I would summarise the latest trends around how to innovate more successfully today. So here are some ideas to get you thinking about the changes you might want to bring to your own innovation processes.

Customers react to new innovation1. Start with the customer in mind – always

So many organisations still have an innovation process that starts with R&D or operations. It’s time to reverse your innovation funnel and start with the customer. (>>Tweet this<<) What are their problems with current products and services; what do they dream of having? How are they compensating or compromising?

 

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” Henry Ford

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” Steve Jobs

However, as Henry Ford and Steve Jobs remind us, customers don’t usually know what they want. They are usually very clear about what they don’t like, but they also often know the solution they are looking for – even if they don’t express it as such. It is our job to interpret what they are saying into what they need. Therefore, identify the result they want but not how they want to achieve it, otherwise you will be looking for that “faster horse”!

2. Stage-gate innovation is essential for a successful business

Today’s world is fast paced and customers never stay satisfied for long. What surprises and delights today, is ordinary and normal, if not tomorrow, at best in a couple of weeks or months. That’s why it’s vital to work on new product and service developments even before you launch your latest offering.

NEW INNOVATION STAGE-GATESMany companies today work with generation pipelines, with three, four or five stages of innovation preparation. This ensures that they are already working on the replacement of each product they launch, whether or not it’s a success.

3. Line extensions can only do so much

Innovations risks opportunities

According to the McKinsey article “ Reinventing Innovation in CPG“, real growth comes from ground-breaking innovations, not simplistic renovations. However, line extensions do provide the time for organisations to prepare their true innovations, while responding to today’s customers incessant desire for novelty.

They are also easier to develop and launch, which means they are less dem anding on resources. Companies which are satisfied with only incremental innovations are unlikely to see significant growth in the long-term. For this reason successful br ands need to do both. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Launch before you’re finished

Many tech companies use this approach, by involving customers as beta testers. In this way, they get their customers help – for free – to improve and mould the final offer. It also allows them to launch more quickly and gain the positive image associations of being first to market.

If you are concerned about confidentiality or competitive speed to respond, then work with customers through co-creation. (>>Tweet this<<) Involve them at every stage of the development process from ideation to launch preparation. If your management are  concerned about the risks of sharing innovative ideas outside the company, involve employees instead, perhaps from other divisions so they are less biassed.

5. Review the category in which you’re playing

Are you sure that your customers see your br and in the same light as you do? Many times I have heard a customer correct an interviewer in a research project, when asked about br ands in a category. “That br and isn’t in that segment, category A” they say; “It’s not a competitor of X, but of Y and Z, the main br ands in category B”. Some examples include dried soups which today compete with sauce mixes, carbonated soft drinks with fruit juices and body gels with shampoos.

Another advantage of underst anding the category in which your customers place your br and is that this can provide you with new ideas for expansion.

Mars ice creamMany confectionary br ands have moved into ice cream and desserts. They have understood that they are being seen as more of a “treat” than merely “just” a chocolate bar. When your customers choose between products from several different categories when deciding what to eat or buy, it is a clear indication that you are not (only) competing in the category you first thought you were. (>>Tweet this<<)

In conclusion, there are many reasons why innovations fail:

  • A short-term mindset where success is dem anded in weeks or months rather than years.
  • Top management instils a fear of failure, so no-one will defend ideas that are unpopular.
  • The innovation process itself is biassed towards current knowledge and skills.
  • A lack of deep customer underst anding.

These five ideas will help you to reinvent your innovation and also make it more customer-centric. After all isn’t that what all best practices should do today, involve the customer? If you have other – better? – ideas, then why not share them below?

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts  and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient just a little longer – but it’s coming soon!

 

 

How to Innovate better than Apple

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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