May 23, 2009
I do a lot of work helping to focus creative energy in the development of new product or package concepts. Many argue that creative teams should not be initially constrained in scope by specific consumer insights or internal parameters. They think that truly “disruptive” innovation (if that’s the goal) comes from giving designers free reign, with minimal inspiration. And that the “mile wide / inch deep” approach is best for the first round of concept development.
I disagree, and so do many designers I’ve worked with. Creative teams must have latitude, for sure. Design direction must not be so specific that their only remaining task is to draw a concept already formulated in words. But many designers will welcome a narrowing of focus and an emphasis on the specific performance the new product needs to deliver. They find that the “meter wide / mile deep” approach is richer and more challenging. And, it’s more likely to drive concepts that are better integrated, better thought out and better at addressing consumer expectations.
The challenge is to present creatives with a design direction that addresses the key emotional, perceptual and functional utilities that drive value for consumers. These come out of sound consumer research that captures these utilities and breaks them down into performance expectations and gaps. Then, “Innovation Platforms” can be tackled individually, with the creative team drilling down into each to generate concepts that address just that criteria. The concepts that best deliver on key utilities can then be integrated into a series of more cohesive concepts that do it all well.
This contrasts with the frequent practice of allowing the creative team to generate fully-featured concepts at the get-go to address all expectations. The failure here is that each concept can’t possibly offer the best solution to each utility. So, they must be dissected and reassembled once the best solutions from each are identified. This takes longer, but most importantly, it leads to sub-optimal concepts that fail to meet some critical expectations. Or, the attempted maximization of one or two concepts the team prefers.
In my experience, it’s much more effective to dig deep on consumer expectations and match the best solutions than it is to try and pick out and re-assemble the best scattershot ideas.
May 22, 2009
One of my readers once sent along an e-mail with an innocent enough suggestion for an article topic: She asked if I could write about achieving simplicity in packaging. Without question, simplicity in packaging is an intuitively attractive goal. But a goal fraught with risk and contradiction. Why is simplicity good? And, is it attainable in a world of relentlessly increasing complexity? The answers are yes, and yes.
Consumer trust of major public corporations is on the decline. Both retailers and manufacturers are seeing their reputations suffer and their brand trust wane. Some contributing factors are beyond brand manager control, but many are not. What do consumers say about how corporations have let them down? What are the forces within the consumer experience that have led to their deepening disappointment? And what can the Marketer do, through product and package innovation efforts, to help pull consumer trust off a slippery slope?
I thought up the idea for this cartoon to exaggerate a point about the ways consumers are mis-used in concept screening. In a forced-choice scenario like this, the best a consumer can do is choose the best of the worst. Or, the one everyone else likes. Or, the one they think you like. Or, the prettiest one. Or….you get the point. The $75 you’re paying them makes them eager to please. But not easy to read.
May 6, 2009
Your approach to capturing consumer insight and providing early direction worked well. Understanding the consumer and competitor, along with capturing client knowledge, was time well spent. Making sure everyone is on the same page on expectations and deliverables led to a successful outcome.
Package Research Manager, Kraft Foods
The barriers to consumption your work revealed, along with your recommendation was instrumental in our decision to launch.
Director of Innovation, PepsiCo
Your ethnography and related strategy work identified a significant new market opportunity for us, along with the rationale to create new products that addressed it.
New Business Supervisor, 3M
You’re great with our consumers. Just as we thought of questions to ask the group, you always got there first.
Marketing Manager, Daisy Brand
Uncovering the usage ‘friction points’ in our category, plus your feature concept suggestion resulted in our best selling line at Target.
VP Marketing, Thermos
That was the best work we’ve seen in generating fresh consumer insights and interpreting them for new package directions. We go back to it over and over.
Innovation Manager, Miller Brewing