Creating Perfect NPD Concepts Reduces Innovation Rates

We’ve all been there, slaving over the fifth, sixth or more iteration of our most recent NPD concept. We’ve spoken to all our stakeholders, made numerous tweaks and now our shiny, beautifully visualised NPD concept is ready to go in front of consumers. But, as only one in ten NPD concepts make it to market, we have to ask: has our perfectionist approach doomed it to failure?

So, what are the NPD concept creating traps we fall into?

  • The first thing we do is produce an NPD concept that is full of our and our business’s assumptions, such as the product format we are offering, the pack size, the name, the flavours, the list goes on. We may believe that we have based our concept on consumer insight and not assumptions. However, the insight is often based on claimed behaviour and is backward not forward looking, so in all likelihood it will not lead us in the right direction to innovate from. Whilst some of our assumptions may be true, it is likely that at least one or two will be off the mark – this can be enough to lead to a good idea being binned by consumers.
  • Once we’ve created our ‘perfect’ NPD concept, we then jump straight into internal selling mode; selling our idea to our internal stakeholders so we can take it to consumers. We are focussed on getting everyone to like and support our idea. The problem with being in selling mode is that it blinds you to potential flaws in an idea and forces you to fight its corner.

Next we take our ‘perfect’ NPD concept to consumers; but what goes wrong here?

  • We spoon feed consumers the idea neatly tied up in the ‘perfect’ concept so they aren’t pushed to really think about each separate, component part. They feel they are being presented with a fait accompli that they don’t have permission to adapt to their needs, but just to accept or reject; but also are blind to what could be. This has the unfortunate effect of making them switch into autopilot mode and evaluate the concept at face value rather than working to understand which component parts don’t work and how they can be changed.
  • Consumers make snap judgements based on product visuals – they are the first things they register. This means consumers can find themselves unable to get past a visual they dislike so consequently reject the whole idea. Conversely, they can buy into an idea based on the visual despite the proposition, name, claims etc. not being what they actually need.

So what’s the solution?

  • Use consumers as problem solvers not judge and jury. Let them be part of your team and build the initial NPD concept with you – the right product format, the packaging they prefer and the main benefit that is relevant to them. This will take away any assumption making and enable you to polish your concept based on good, solid consumer insight.
  • To enable them to do this, you have to give consumers the component parts of ideas and their possible variables rather than a full concept. Presenting consumers with an idea that is broken down and in a rough and ready state, gives them permission to really take it apart; iron out the flaws and develop it to its maximum potential.

In summary, creating NPD concepts is not a time for perfectionism. It is a time for exploration and the banishment of assumptions. Bringing consumers in to help build NPD concepts not only creates ideas with greater potential but also generates a huge amount of consumer insight around the issue you are trying to solve or create.

Most importantly, all of this means that those innovation success rates will soar.

Published 16th February 2015 by Shelly Greenway @ the Strategy Distillery