With one in three new products dead, or dying, by the end of year 2, the ultimate goal of innovation should be more than just delivering a minimum viable product. Businesses should aim to deliver meaningfully different innovations, ones that solve consumer problems better than the existing options and speak to their instincts and emotions. However, at today’s pace of innovation , developing meaningfully different innovation is more difficult than ever, as what is meaningful to consumers shifts rapidly in response to changing social and economic conditions.
Product innovation is a learning journey
For any innovation to survive the test of time, it must not only identify a real consumer problem, but also be executed successfully and enhance brand equity. The process of innovation does not stop once ideation is complete. It only ends after the final offer is efficiently developed and consistently refined.
Optimizing product design, packaging, positioning and communication is essential to give a new product the best chance of success in-market before your competitors beat you to it.
But a more agile innovation process is needed
All too often, the pressure to bring an innovation to market quickly forces us to take shortcuts that potentially jeopardize its success. Rather than leave assumptions untested only to discover their flaws later, we believe innovators must adopt a more agile innovation process – one that focuses on learning and integrating insights at each stage of innovation development at speed.
5 ways to accelerate your innovation development
To maximize the probability of success, you need an innovation learning journey that is designed to highlight the different make-or-break points of your innovation. Kantar helps 39 of the Fortune 100 companies innovate successfully and we evaluate over 10,000 products a year across all industry sectors. Based on this experience, we have identified five important ways to improve innovation:
1) Embrace a consumer-first mindset
Throughout the innovation process it is essential to build from strong consumer foundations. At the development stage, it is important that the voice of the consumer is continually heard. Creating meaningful and different innovations requires a deep understanding of who values the innovation and why.
The challenge for corporate innovators, particularly when testing breakthrough ideas, is to listen to the weaker signals from consumers and to focus on the glimmer of potential success, sometimes hidden in the responses of early category adopters. To that end, we recommend using an early adopter sample to avoid good ideas being abandoned too early.
And, of course, there is far more to success than just satisfying functional needs. Does the positioning evoke the right feelings? Does the packaging have the ability to stand out on the shelf? Will the new offer extend brand appeal or cannibalize existing items? Will the advertising communicate the proposition effectively? A successful innovation strategy is built on answering these questions from a consumer’s perspective and then implementing them as appealingly as possible.
2) Fill knowledge gaps fast
Automated research solutions offer game-changing value to the innovation process by facilitating the right consumer feedback when needed, without delaying the overall project. Whenever you identify something that you don’t know, you can quickly get the clarity you need, straight from the horse’s mouth, without making any assumptions.
Quick, real-world experiments and concept testing can identify issues that need to be resolved. and getting prototypes into people’s hands early helps identify ‘must have’ requirements before product development has progressed too far. Timely customer feedback makes faster innovation more foolproof.
For a recent project, we started the development phase by quickly testing the existing competition to identify potential barriers to our new product’s successful adoption. Based on that knowledge, we could then avoid some of the existing barriers that historically stopped widespread adoption in the category.
3) Learn, test and learn
To develop innovations at speed, you need to nurture your best ideas effectively, building momentum and confidence as the project progresses. Just-in-time testing and fast customer feedback give innovators the confidence to facilitate faster, more impactful innovation.
Rebecca Haigh, Innovation, Insights & Strategic Planning Director at Heineken, recalls how consumer feedback helped make Inch’s Cider one of Kantar’s top ten UK new products of 2021.
“Our concept testing found that some of the concepts needed further work and iteration. So, then we went back and looked at those again as a team, with the help of Kantar, and refined them, and finally got to some concepts that passed the action standards that we'd set and did very well. This gave us confidence that we could move forward with further development.”
Examples like Inch’s confirm that timely customer feedback, with the right tools and expertise, can empower the process of innovation: helping you nurture the right ideas, develop compelling concepts, design standout packaging and set the right conditions for a successful product launch.
4) Employ the right tools and expertise
Getting meaningful and useful customer feedback means more than just asking questions. People’s behavior, including their shopping habits, is resistant to change. This is where a wide variety of customer insight tools, including non-verbal techniques, can help highlight intuitive thinking, or observing people’s behavior, be that in person or by life streaming.
When it comes to identifying the right tool for the job or interpreting what the data really means, having ready access to external consultants who can bring their own expertise to answer these questions can improve innovation.
Sarah Babb, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Marketing Manager, highlights the importance of partnership in the success of another of Kantar’s top ten new products, McVitie’s Jaffa Jonuts. She says:
“The partnership we have had with Kantar from the beginning…has been really critical to the success. We’ve made learnings all the way through and kept the consumer at the very heart of what we’ve delivered…(importantly) we knew what the most compelling aspects were for consumers, and we ensured that we did not lose sight of that.”
5. Be fit for your brand
Innovation is the lifeblood of a successful brand, but only if the innovation fits with how people already perceive the brand. Even a strong brand can only stretch its credibility so far. For instance, in the U.S., Pond’s long-established success in beauty care failed to support an extension into the toothpaste category.
Moreover, a successful innovation strategy should help enhance the brand’s perceived meaning and differentiating proposition. To that end, Kantar’s innovation solutions are founded on our Meaningfully Different brand equity framework, which allows us to assess how product innovation will impact the brand’s performance on qualities present in brands that sell the most, command the highest price premium and generate the most value.