Magazine article Marketing

Product of the Year: In with the New

Magazine article Marketing

Product of the Year: In with the New

Article excerpt

An intuitive touch and careful preparation are key to successful new product development, writes David Tiltman.

The Product of the Year awards showcase some of the best examples of new product development in the FMCG sector. These are innovations that have offered their target audience a relevant concept and delivered a product good enough to encourage repeat purchase. They are, however, the exception, rather than the rule when it comes to NPD.

A commonly cited statistic is that 90% of new products fail within their first few years. In a mature market, constant innovation is recognised as the best way to retain share, yet there are no guarantees of success.

One need look only at Nestle Rowntree, which is still losing share despite undergoing one of the most prolific periods of product development in its history.

But there are ways to remove some of the risk from the process. For FMCG marketers about to embark on an innovation programme, there is now an established process that should, if followed carefully, maximise results.

The starting point is gaining insight. The focus for FMCG marketers is on the consumer, how they behave and their needs. But there are other issues to take into account: the make-up of the market in which the company operates, broader trends in society and, of course, what is technologically possible.

To take away anything meaningful from this process requires more than a cursory examination, according to Peter Shaw, founder of consultancy Brand Catalyst. 'You need sophisticated research to understand the motivations in a market,' he says. 'You are looking for tensions where the target market is frustrated, but may not know they are frustrated.'

Understanding a company's strengths and weaknesses is also important.

'The big mistake a lot of companies make is just to look at consumer needs. Everyone can do that,' adds Shaw. 'You have to look at how your company can take advantage. Each firm is unique, and some opportunities apply only to one company.'

Once an understanding of the customer and market has been gained, the generation of ideas can begin. The Product of the Year winners demonstrate clear insights into the needs of their target market. Reckitt Benckiser, for example, topped the Women's Hair Removal category with its Veet 3 Minutes Cream. The product succeeded because it identified waiting time as the main frustration for women when using depilatory creams. 'Women don't want to take a long time to remove hair,' says Veet marketing manager Wan May Hardy. 'Creams that took up to 10 minutes were not a convenient method for them.'

Power of understanding

Battery brand Energizer has shown a similar commitment to understanding the needs of its market. Its 15-Minute Charger, which won this year's Out and About category, was designed to capitalise on two trends. First, the batteries last four times longer than standard alkaline ones, thus meeting the growing need for batteries suitable for high-drain products such as digital cameras. Second, it met a demand for greater convenience, cutting the recharge time from about eight hours for standard rechargers to just 15 minutes, and including a car adapter.

Producing winning ideas is easier said than done, however. This can be the trickiest part of the process, and the one where most mistakes are made.

Research International worked with Heinz on its top-down ketchup bottle, which won Product of the Year for Condiments and Sauces last year. According to Research International global innovation director Helen Wing, the quality of the initial insight is crucial. 'Often product ideas are based on simple observations, rather than deep insights,' she says. 'The product can then lack a real benefit for consumers.'

Another problem, says Tim Jones, director of consultancy Innovaro, is expecting research to do all the work for you. …

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