Innovation Funnels Shouldn’t Be Set In Stone

You’ve thought of lots of potential innovations, you’ve tested them with consumers and found exciting, unique and ‘out in front’ ideas to fill your funnel. Great, so, that’s your 5year innovation funnel sorted for the next few years, right? Wrong! An innovation funnel needs to be constantly revisited, ideas tweaked and kept ahead of the game.

Yes, kept ahead of the game. By it’s very nature innovation is about change, constantly and excitingly so. Think back to, say, 3years ago. What was new and cutting edge in your market then? I bet it doesn’t seem that exciting now. The same thing will happen to the ideas in your innovation funnel, they will lose some of their shine if they aren’t constantly polished. We need to remember that over time:

  • Consumers move on – they are influenced by the product experiences they have, by friends, by social media, the latest consumer craze, the list goes on. What they once thought was new and exciting might not be anymore as their expectations change and evolve. And the pace of change is speeding up all the time.
  • Competitors develop and change too, bringing new offerings and ideas to market. For example, consider the breakfast yogurt market. Moma breakfast yogurts launched nationally in 2010 while Activia breakfast yogurts launched in 2012. But, what if Activia had had the idea back in 2009 and planned it for 2012 in their innovation pipeline. Instead of being a unique offering they were beaten to market and became a “me too”. This may not be the case, but it serves to make a point about evolving competitors and how your ideas won’t stay unique for long. You need to keep refreshing them to stay ahead of the competition.
Breakfast Yogurts

Influences outside your category will impact on how your innovation is perceived – NPD in adjacent categories, market trends, etc. will all effect how unique your idea is seen to be. It will encroach on the breakthrough space you have identified for your brand, making your innovation less ground breaking. If we take the above example, Belvita breakfast biscuits also launched in 2010.

This means it’s critical that ideas in the innovation funnel are continually tweaked and tested to ensure they stay ahead of the curve until you are ready to launch. These may be functional tweaks but more than likely they will be the product proposition and how it is communicated.

Of course the other option, if you think they are really unique and special, is to bring them to market sooner. Use a third party supplier if it’s capability that is holding you back. It’s better to be unique with first mover advantage than to be a “me too” a couple of years later. And we know that we all have profitability targets to hit but surely it is better to bank a percentage of something than a percentage of nothing!

As the saying goes…’the only constant in life is change’ and this very much applies to innovation funnels.

Published 25th March 2015 by Natalie Reed @ the Strategy Distillery