The failure of companies to innovate is always a strategic problem. In 1957, the life-expectancy of a company in the S&P 500 index was 75 years. Today, it’s just 15 years. Polaroid revolutionized instant photography, but failed to adapt to digital – the market is littered with stories like that. Walmart and now Amazon create price and supply chain advantages to eclipse many of the household retail names that once dominated our consciousness.
Ted Levitt famously said, “People don't want a quarter-inch drill – they want a quarter-inch hole.” This principle was the foundation of the many market revolutions that have shaped the technology age. So the lesson for brand marketers from all of this is…
Don’t ask, “What do we know how to make?”
Instead ask, “What job does the customer need done right now?”
Even better, “What job will the customer want next?”
The Role of Research Communities
In business and in life, there is a time to listen and a time to lead. As our clients seek to build strong innovation programs, Finch Brands is often called upon to capture, manage, and filter the voice of the marketplace – to provide the essential listening that helps brands uncover and validate new opportunities.
To provide the greatest possible value to clients, our FinchSight research communities offering has been specially designed to support innovation.
FinchSight is based on community best practices and the latest thinking in collaboration literature. James Surnowicki’s five principles of crowd-sourcing articulated in his Wisdom Of the Crowds is one of paradigms that informs our approach. We use the following strategies to operate innovation-focused research communities:
Collaboration – our platform allows members to see and react to ideas and comments from others.
Diversity – we try to recruit a mix of those who are familiar and less familiar (active, lapsed, potential, etc.) with the brand because different perspectives trigger better ideas.
Independence – the Community Manager encourages debate among members by challenging ideas and encouraging members to think independently and contribute.
Information – we transparently frame the problem as honestly and as broadly as possible.
Closing the loop – we generally let the consumer know that their idea has been used and by doing so generate positive response and involvement in the community.
Iterative learning – we use the same respondents to work the problem from inception to launch, which increases knowledge and engagement.
Category Exploration – A FinchSight Road Map
To follow is a high-level outline of ways to use FinchSight communities to support innovation. Whatever the categories in question, we first need an understanding of how consumers are meeting their needs in the product space under investigation.
So, we typically propose a diary study that requires individuals to document the steps they have taken to purchase and use existing products. Respondents then post their diaries in the community via discussion board and, taking advantage of the opportunity for collaboration, we then have members comment on the diaries of others. We also conduct a live chat about pain points uncovered in the diaries.
Another approach to category exploration is having members ideate on a wish list for the product assortment. So the focus here would be on having a diverse set of individuals who are considering the product talk about the problems that the product is designed to solve and the ideal product attributes that would solve them.
The output of the category exploration stage is as broad an understanding of the opportunity space as possible. The next step is to identify unmet needs. Our methodology is problem detection and using this approach we ask individuals to simply complain about the category. We use discussion boards to get complaints posted and reacted to and then use live chats to have members evaluate these problems in terms of their bothersomeness, frequency of occurrence and the availability of solutions to these problems.
The next step is ideation within the problem areas identified in the previous phase. Two options here. Either client staff can innovate on coming up with solutions to those problem areas that consumers say are the toughest or we can use the Finch Brands community to do so.
There are a number of approaches that we use to foster collaboration in the community including:
- This involves creating teams of members who work together to come up with ideas and who get rewarded for coming up with the best ones. Points can be used for valuable contributions and member ideas that are really excellent in the community can be posted for others to see.
- Building a communications channel directly from members of the client team to the community stressing the importance of the project to community members. This can be done by posting videos from the brand team in the community outlining the purpose of the project and its significance to the client.
And then lastly, once pain points are identified and solutions ideated (from client team and/or consumers), our platform can manage a standard concept screening approach. We can also add to it a qualitative component where respondents are first surveyed on the ideas in terms of purchase interest, uniqueness and value and then probed qualitatively on their reasons using a live chat method.
All of the above and more is contained within the FinchSight research community. Our platform provides the full complement of qualitative and quantitative research techniques outlined above. Using these tools helps generate new product/service ideas, screen and then optimize them leveraging the co-creation capabilities of the methodology. Communities, therefore, are uniquely suited to the kind of iterative learning that is necessary to drive new product development.