We’ve all been there… a high scoring innovation concept is developed into an exciting new product with high expectations. It goes to market and then bombs. To make it worse, 6 months later your competitor launches a product which, to all intent and purpose, is the same as yours and it flies off the shelves. What happened? How did their product succeed where yours failed?
What tends to happen is that through the product development phase businesses lose sight of the consumer needs and insights that made the concept great in the first place. This can very often happen as management of the project gets handed over from the innovation team to the marketing team. The original vision gets diluted amongst the excitement of new marketing plans and new design inputs.
To prevent this dilution, it’s critical to:
- Make sure you really understand what is driving the high innovation concept score before you even start moving towards product or comms. development i.e. what consumers see as the key success factors and how they want them communicated to them.
- Ensure the person or people who worked to make the concept a winner and understand why become the ‘Project Champion’. A Project Champion is a person who stays with the concept through to launch, even if it is just in a consultative role, to keep the concept true to its roots.
So what are the kind of concept drivers that should be identified and fully understood before proceeding further?
- The absolute must haves – for consumers – these are the things that are imperative for your concept to succeed. For these you need a clear rationale for why they work and have tested alternatives. For example, if you know that you have tested 6 different names for a product concept and consumers only understood the benefit of the idea when it was called ‘Breezy Mist’, this would be a ‘must have’.
- The must avoids – these are the things that will make consumers reject your idea, probably without even trying it, so it won’t stand a chance after launch. For example, if during concept research and development consumers say yellow makes them think the product will be stale, you should be fighting to have no yellowy tones in the pack design.
- The nice to haves – these are attributes that will give an extra boost to the innovation’s appeal but it’s not going to fail if they are omitted. Here you can take a more flexible approach. For example, it might be nice to have vitamin D added but Vitamin C and B vitamins are absolute must haves so will be enough on their own.
It’s worth bearing in mind that even the biggest brands forget to follow the above rules sometimes. Take Pepsi RAW, example, launched as a natural product with no artificial preservatives, using ingredients from natural sources and with a lower calorie content. It was launched in the UK in 2008 and was withdrawn in 2010. Coca Cola launched Life, a cola with no artificial sweeteners and a lower calorie content, in 2013 in South America and in the UK in 2014. It appears to be performing well but it is essentially the same proposition as RAW. Pepsi have now re-entered the market with True – very similar to Life!
The thing to remember is that achieving a high scoring idea ‘conception’ is all very exciting but it is the first big milestone on the birthing journey. There is a lot of nurturing required to help your embryo of an innovation stay healthy and keep its real DNA until birth.