Monday, April 30, 2012

The Process of Innovation 3

In marketing and innovation, nothing is as important for developing new products than spending time with the consumer.  From 2007-2009, recession times caused me as a manager in my company to pioneer a brand renewal for a product line known in our region for over 50 years--Monks' Bread


Made by real Trappist monks who live a cloistered life literally, in order to navigate the difficult grocery environment, we innovated a "free bread giveaway" program at summer festivals and winter indoor vendor events to get "face time" with the customer.  

Our bread tent and booth became one of the most popular fixtures all over the region.  What we learned was about 50% of the 35,000 people who came through our booth during those years had never heard of the product, and of those who had, only 30-40% were regular buyers as defined by purchasing at least once per month.  

So here is what we learned about innovation by giving away bread over three years to get to know buyers and potential buyers of our product:

  • The importance of spending face to face time with real customers gave us many new ideas for innovation of products and packaging that would be what the consumer wanted.  Their needs were very different than what we had assumed. 
  • We discovered what the consumer what unsatisfied with when they walked down the bread aisle in the grocery store. This led us to keep asking "Why?" at our promo events.  Why do you buy the bread you do?  Why do you buy our bread?  Why do you buy where you buy?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dealing With Idea Squashers

An acquaintance posted a piece from Darden/UVA about idea squashers. One of the most dangerous people in an organization are the naysayers who resist change, usually because they have failed at innovation and new products so are playing it safe.  When innovation gets stuck--persist!

How To Deal With Idea Squashers (Darden)

Meet the Real Mother Of Invention: Persistence! (Inc)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Process Of Innovation 2


How Do I Find the Opportunity to Innovate?


In the recovery and counseling
world, there is a saying about change: People do not change till the pain of remaining the same is greater the pain of changing. 

Even though a person may have unsatisfied needs, wants, and desires, they may settle for the status quo.  Innovation is all about making people come to the point where they absolutely have to change. 

Remember, people are looking for solutions to problems.  When a consumer buys your product or service, what they are paying for are solutions to something they are trying to accomplish.  Problem: I need to trim my hedges.  Solution?  Hedge clippers that can help an amateur look like a pro.  Why?  I need to have my yard looking better.  Why?  Because the last time my father-in-law was here he made a comment about how overgrown our bushes are and since his yard is always immaculate, I don't want him to think bad of me.  That is the real need!

If you are looking for opportunities to provide innovative solutions for your customers, you have to be always asking, "Why are our customers really buying our product or service?" 

If you want to get ideas how to know your customer better, I highly recommend you watch the show "Undercover Boss." A common theme on that show is how out of touch the front office is with the customer and their needs.  The more we do not know our customer, the more we miss the opportunity for innovation.  

Getting back to our opening statement, where are your customers feeling the pain to change?  How can you make the pain of staying the same greater than the pain of changing?  Price? Peer pressure?  The old model is so outdated that it can hardly be used anymore or you cannot get parts for it.  Wellness programs pressure people to be healthier at work to lower their employer health premiums, so workers are looking for healthy food to buy when they are shopping.

Those are the opportunities for innovation.




Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Process of Innovation

Today I begin walking through steps I regularly travel to discover something different that will impact our customers.  I work in the food industry, and people's tastes are my pursuit.  We make one of the world's oldest staples--sliced bread.  We sell it in all the major supermarkets including Walmart in New York, PA, and New England.  We also produce specialty cakes, cookies, and artisan products for resellers and specialty stores.

As a regional producer, we do not have the global resources and scale of our competitors in the bread aisle of the supermarket. Yet, we have three products in the top 50, and are ranked #5 by IRI in branded bread product sales in Buffalo-Rochester--our primary market.  How do we do this?







Where Innovation Begins

1.  We stay close to our customers to know when to create a new status quo.

The relationship of people and food is interesting. In life, people generally resist change.  As children, our parents tried to get us to try something new, and we puckered our faces and spit out anything that was not what we already liked. 

Many people buy the same food every week at the grocery store, order the same Starbucks coffee every morning, and order the same dish when they eat out at one of their few favorite places.  

Yet, market signals do appear from time to time that the thinking and tastes of consumers do indeed change.  When an American society struggling with obesity discovered you could lose weight by not eating bread, we had a major market signal.  WHAT HAVE YOU INNOVATED FOR US?

Here is the catch--we need to know these changes are coming before they actually happen.  This is what authors Clayton Christensen and Scott Anthony term the "innovator's paradox."  When times are good and we have the time and capital to innovate, we often do not.  When times turn bad, it is too late to innovate. 

Although people started eating bread again after Atkins, the market is still signaling we will eat two kinds of bread--indulgence bread and healthy bread.  More and more customers tell us through their food spend "we want to eat healthy." 

The innovator needs to get out in front and innovate, telling their customers "we have heard you, and we know the way."  


TODAY'S LESSON:  Are you one step ahead of your customer?  Are your customers sending you signals that they need a change?  Do you have what they will need ready to go?

Next time:


2.  Identify the problem the customer needs you to solve for them.