Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Closed-Minded Innovator

Being an innovator and being closed-minded seem to be an oxymoron don't they? Yet that's what I just ran innovator who says their company innovates all the I ask, "on what level is your company innovating all the time?" It's about a $307 million company according to "Wouldn't you like to grow it by $300 million?" I ask. I've created new product concepts like Baked Lays that did at least that well in their first 10 months for Frito-Lay. So maybe I should go knock on the door of Marvel Mystery Oil instead. Maybe they're hungrier. So back to the flippant comment, "Our company innovates all the time." (Interpreted as, "We don't need you.") I'd like to quote leadership guru John Maxwell, and I quote; "You can find plenty of smart, talented people who can only take their business so far due to the limitations of their leadership and vision." So if all that is required to grow the business is to change the way you think (which costs nothing) why wouldn't you want to employ (or learn about) a proven innovation thought-leadership system of creative invention that could double or triple the size of your company? The ego of a young territorial executive too busy learning everything all over again for the first time muddies the water. But as the National Enquirer used to say, "Inquiring minds want to know!"


Pharmaceutical companies today are developing hundreds if not investigating thousands of new products each year - many of which go OTC. So I began thinking, "How many would ultimately converge on the same positions, just saying the same things about themselves the way their different advertising agencies want to?" Now the agencies like to say, "It's all about the strategy!" lol So just what does it mean to think outside of the box in oral care where there are only five category attributes that account for all consumer perceptions in oral care: whitening, cavity prevention, breath freshening, tartar control and gum care?" I can hear the advertising exec selecting the new advertising agency now! "I don't care what you talk about, just talk about one of those five things." So when it comes to new product development, the same thing happens. Consequently, there is no thinking outside of the box. which is why McKinsey & Company reports that over the last 45 years, despite solid balance sheets and healthy bottom lines CPG execs wonder where their new growth will come from. New technologies still converging on the same positions? Withdrawn FDA approvals?

The same happens in all categories. Show me a laundry detergent or household cleanser that doesn't promise to do the cleansing job better and faster. Show me a shampoo and conditioner that doesn't promise model-perfect hair. Show me an allergy technology that doesn't promise to relieve symptoms better and faster. Show me an orange juice that doesn't promise to taste most like the orange.

Yes. Commoditizations besets every new product launch like the plague. Hastening copy cats and capping each new technology's rapid growth phase because they do not insultate their businesses by discovering and communicating the proprietary Special User Effect no other rival can own.

Tell me about other categories in which "thinking outside of the box" beats or sucumbs to commoditiztion - but be careful before you dispute me - you can't be in "a category" unless you are converging on the same position as your rivals. So here's how you'll get a leg up on first place, or get there if you didn't launch first.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

My beef with online research

You can't quick and dirty half billion dollar ideas. Plus the fact that none of the information collected elevates brands beyond current laddering study data arresting the additional growth of product and brand sales.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My innovation beef with market research

Why don't I like asking consumers questions? Because I've been exposed to almost forty years of the best and brightest market researchers at companies from Procter & Gamble to Pizza Hut who ask questions. In all that time, the answer to every question only reconfirmed things we already knew - basically reinventing the wheel, which, if I was to focus on advertising is why so much advertising bores or desensitizes us. I found that no one could ask a question they didn't already know the answer to. When new generations of managers asked questions at these companies it was so they could learn everything again for the first time. In companies like Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, I've actually seen senior client service executives collect, secret and destroy the work of predecessors to protect their current position from better answers found before their time. I found that when you ask questions, you don't get the voice of the consumer, you get the voice of the inquirer through the question being asked - a form of bias that has led companies from General Mills to General Motors astray, or at least slowed or reduced their innovation return on investment. The root of all this doom and gloom? The fact that none of this question-asking ever stimulated respondent's minds - be they client or consumer - so that they could respond in surprising ways beyond their current frames of reference to hasten the pace of successful innovation and generate a consistent stream of important new disruptive technology and manufacturing patents and consumer new product concepts. So where's the beef? That is, where is the answer found? In processes that proactively stimulate consumer and client minds rather than those methodologies that reactively collect and measure data. In processes that create new knowledge, rather than in those that pre-ordain and then sell syndicated or predefined trends (i.e. Cocooning - let's write a book as a self proclaimed guru then go sell the answer to everyone so they can pull the trigger at a target at point blank range and go nowhere) data such as the existence of new subcultures of our population such as Thrivals or Basics or Adventurers - all those psychobabble social and behavioral target audience definitions that have put the brakes and blinders on so many brands by limiting their appeal through their contrived application (i.e.: Type A Strivers shilling for Cadillac). Or all those touchy-feeley product design firms who observe the here and now creating new Swiffers that do nothing more than replace old mops and refrigerators. Making the old look new. That's not innovation.