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The Traditional Innovation Process

Traditionally, product innovations came from R&D people, who made interesting new formulations aimed at filling important and unmet needs in a category.

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Then the marketing department would describe those product features by writing a sentence or two about each and printing that information on a card. The marketing research people would bring a bunch of those cards to consumers and record which features they liked the most and which they said they would be most likely to buy.

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Finally, the marketing people would take the winning concept and give it to the ad agency, which would figure out the appropriate brand voice, personality, and world.

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The problem with this process is that in today's marketplace, it is inadequate to the task. It generates ideas that consumers will say are 'great for camping'-in other words, things that seem clever but are not really relevant to everyday life (which is the Kiss of Death Assessment for any new idea).

In today's marketplace, where there are literally dozens of kinds of OJ to choose from, a product innovation that begins in the lab is unlikely to make enough of a difference to succeed. Back to my son in the drugstore eyeing the deodorant choices. A fancy new formula that keeps him 20 percent drier just isn't going to be enough to get him. Something that's cool, a brand name that conjures up an attitude he aspires to, a graphic that evokes a world of imagery that captures his imagination . . . those things will be. Of course, the product has to work, too. Image alone is also not enough.


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