The Toughest Nut To Crack In Innovation

I read with interest today an article in The Grocer stating that Warburtons have decided to stop making their pitta chips. And it got us discussing about the amount of resources and funds that get invested in product development, pack design, advertising etc. without having uncovered first how to sell the product proposition in the most compelling way.

What do we mean by that? Well, most of the time businesses have highly capable R&D people who can create great new products. This is not where the issue lies. It’s how you convey the idea and make it appealing that will be key to its success. This is the where the hard graft should be. It is the toughest nut to crack.

Let’s take a look at the Warburtons example

Warburtons first launched their pitta chips in 2010 and since then they have appeared under 3 totally different guises. And our guess would be that each time the hard graft either was not done. Or more than likely it was viewed through the lens of a comms. vehicle like the pack design or advertising rather then getting down to the fundamentals of the product proposition. Very rarely do businesses think to commission an innovation agency to help work out what is going wrong and how to fix it.


Guise No 1 

Warburtons Pitta Chips failed NPD

Appealing to: Kids, teenagers, young adults?

The experience: Not sure. Maybe cheesy, toasted bread? Can’t tell the shape or texture of the product. No clue as to flavour intensity.

Uniqueness: Nothing. Doesn’t say whether it would be lighter, crisper, more substantial etc.

Emotionally: Happy, fun, playful.


Guise No 2 

Warburtons Baked Pitta Chips failed NPD

Appealing to:  Adults, indulgent evening occasions.

The experience: Triangle like crisps with pitta bread texture and quite intense flavours.

Uniqueness: Nothing except that they are pitta like.

Emotionally: Warm, rich, slightly mysterious.


Guise No 3

Warburtons Escapes pitta bitesAppealing to:  Adults who want something different to the normal crisp.

The experience: A light, crispiness but intense flavour.

Uniqueness: Made from pitta, natural flavours, 45% less fat, 100% taste.

Emotionally: Carefree, adventurous.

You can see that Warburtons were learning by their mistakes and by the end Escapes had started to get a good product proposition in place. However, it was probably too late by then. Both the business and the trade would have lost momentum and belief.

Of course Warburtons is just one of many businesses to not get the foundations of the product proposition right from the start. So here is another example. The minute we saw this launch from Unilever we knew that it would not be around for very long. The emotional benefit of using a more natural product was completely missing. Instead it was saying aggressive, loud and artificial. And you can see the considerable difference when they got it right.

Poor product proposition is actually quite a common problem with innovation. 


Original and relaunched product

Sure Natural Minerals anti perspirantAs an aid here are some of the questions that any business should be able to answer before committing to a new product launch i.e. early in the concept development process:

  • Who is going to consume it? Who is this product for? Why are they going to consume it?
  • Do we know how to describe or explain the idea so consumers know what experience to expect and that this experience is appealing?
  • Have we worked out how this is going to give the consumer something that they believe they can’t get from something else?
  • How does the consumer want to feel emotionally about this new product? How do we tap into a deeper subconscious desire? 

If you can’t answer these with confidence then your innovation’s chance of success and survival past two years are low. So remember; the most fundamental and the hardest part of the concept building process is the product or range proposition.

We know it is not the sexy part but without it success will elude you. Having said that, this should be one of the key skillsets of any innovation company so you don’t have to take it on alone.