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?

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