As a strategic market research consultancy, we receive a lot of requests to help in innovation. Whether it’s new product development or packaging innovation, companies know that they must constantly be innovating to survive. Innovation is critical.
But, we’ve noticed something troublesome in many of these requests and it typically lies in the drivers of these innovation initiatives. In our experience, innovation projects are usually kicked off as a reaction to a competitive offering or simply chasing consumer trends. We call this “limping into innovation.” While trends and competitive offerings can be good starting points for innovation brainstorming and may randomly strike gold as innovation drivers, typical results are less than optimal. And that’s because the most important ingredient is missing.
Chances are your brand is operating in a world of perceived parity. Whether it’s beer or pet food, OTC medications or prescriptions, categories are crowded and everyday people are getting more cynical and bored with the same old thing. Your product idea may be better, last longer or is made with better ingredients. Your package idea may be more attractive, modern or user friendly. Unfortunately, to the consumer, it is all white noise. And innovation initiatives that continue to only chase trends or react to competitors typically result in more of the same…contributions to the parity and white noise.
So, what’s the solution? Insight. In today’s world, brands that have a true, deep understanding of their consumers – brands that understand consumer values and their needs better than anyone else – are going to be the brands that win. It’s not about what your competitor is doing. It’s about what your consumer is feeling. It’s not about what consumers find trendy. It’s what your consumer needs to fill a void in their life. Your consumer should look at your product, package or idea and feel actual tension. They should be thinking: “Wow. I must have this. It is so me. They knew exactly what I wanted, even if I’d never realized it before.”
We believe companies should charge (not limp) into innovation led by Insight. We recognize this is not easy. Often in innovation, ideas are abundant, but Insight is illusive. So, here are three simple principles to help your organization focus on Insight in innovation.
“Winning on Insight” Principles for Innovation
- Prioritize “True” Insight
Make a commitment to prioritize true “Insight” (with a capital I) in your innovation practices. Even further, make sure the Insight you are using is truly a consumer Insight that is fit to lead. Keep in mind that true Insight is not a focus group quote, a consumer trend or a competitor tweet. It’s not a universal truth or a convenient marketing wish. Insight is a deep understanding of your target’s beliefs that, when leveraged for innovation purposes, has the power to change your target’s behavior. Unearth and achieve this level of Insight first. Then prioritize this type of true Insight and watch how your innovation initiatives gather power.
- Invite the Customer
The surest way to achieve a deep understanding of your target and to prioritize Insight is to invite the consumer into the innovation process. Infuse them throughout to ensure that Insight is not only prioritized, it is executed against appropriately and leveraged to its maximum ability. This doesn’t always have to mean conducting a focus group or having a consumer co-creation session. Sometimes a touch point through a digital means, i.e. mobile or online community research, can reveal real time consumer experiences that may drive innovation. From the discovery phase, to defining whitespace, to development and delivery of the idea – the consumer’s voice should be the driver, the voice of reason and the measure of success.
- Fail Faster
Finally, we encourage your teams to fail faster. Failure during innovation should not be lamented – it should be celebrated! Identify and weed out the bad ideas so you can focus all efforts of optimization on the good ideas. In our opinion, failing faster is best achieved through rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping is taking an idea that exists in someone’s head, or on a post-it note sketch or on a conference room white board, and bringing it to life in a tangible way. Handing the consumer an idea (or even better, their idea) in tangible form allows them to better evaluate its merit. Did it deliver on the insight? Let them tell you after physically experiencing the product vs. just reading about it or seeing it two-dimensional. It makes a world of difference in the quality of ideas generated.
“Winning on Insight” Principles In Action: The Brädo Innovation Lab
Brädo recently developed a new innovation tool to help our clients put the “Winning on Insight” principles into action in a way that is efficient, cost-effective and impactful. The Brädo Innovation Lab is a mobile prototyping suite that has been custom designed to facilitate front-end innovation. This one-of-a-kind, transportable facility is equipped with everything needed to ideate and prototype, from low-fidelity materials like clay or pipe cleaners, to high-fidelity equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters, modeling software and food extruders.
We brought the Lab to the recent IIeX North America event to give attendees an opportunity to experience it first hand, and the response was exciting. See a bit of The Lab yourself with this short video:
Transferrable to any location, brand teams, agencies and consumers come together in The Lab with Brädo Creative Strategists and Technical Makers. These are dynamic and focused innovation sessions, bringing together your best internal thinkers with your customers and giving them all the tools needed to move your brand forward. Ideating and prototyping in The Innovation Lab hits on all three “Winning on Insight” principles. It ensures initiatives stay grounded in true Insight by infusing the consumer into the innovation process. And it allows brand teams to identify flaws faster and optimize ideas on the fly through rapid prototyping.
By following these simple principles and utilizing the Brädo Innovation Lab, we are helping our clients, from big Pharma to global beer brands, produce ideas that are truly breakthrough in their categories, and saving them significant time and money in the process.
We encourage all research and brand professionals to adopt these “Winning on Insight” principles in order to stand out in a world of parity. We encourage all to give Brädo a call to get a look at our Innovation Lab in action. And above all else, we encourage all brands to never, ever, have another innovation initiative devoid of insight again.
Kim Bowers is Senior Director, Business Unit Consultant at Brädo Creative Insight. A former advertising agency Account Planner, Kim has ample understanding of the creative process, and a healthy respect for both the limits and potential of qualitative research. Kim has seen first-hand the value of insight in communications, and she uses this knowledge and experience to add creative depth to the processes and services offered by the Brädo team. Kim’s job is to ensure that Brädo continues to meet the changing market research needs of their valued global clients, particularly in the complex categories of innovation, shopper marketing and digital research.
Andy Ford is Senior Director, Group Leader of Innovation at Brädo Creative Insight. Prior to joining Brädo, Andy most recently worked in the advertising agency business, creating an in-house consultancy and software platform that drove consumer research. Over the course of his career, Andy has led efforts to develop new products and identify strategic white space for brands such as Taco Bell, PepsiCo, Doritos, Avery Dennison and Tyson Foods. Andy is a highly requested speaker regarding consumer trends and strategy, and is rapidly expanding Brädo’s innovation offerings in qualitative market research.