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"New Products Success
FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD: Creative tactics that give you an
© 2002 By Phil Glowatz and Jacques Chevron
1 September 2003
Until late in the 18th century, most travelers walked
or rode on the left side of roads. This came about because soldiers usually
fought with their swords in their right hand, and being on the left side of
the road made it easier to engage an enemy. The soldiers demanded all
travelers follow suit.
Napoleon changed this practice. To give an edge to his armies, he ordered
soldiers and travelers to the right side of the roads. The resulting flow of
refugees fleeing on the "wrong" side of the road during conflicts had the
effect of slowing down his opponents' armies. And, when enemy patrols were
met on the road, there was confusion that Napoleon's men were expecting and
prepared for, giving them a tactical advantage.
With marketing, and particularly in new product development, doing things
differently can also pay big dividends. Yet, most of those in new products
use the same tactics-the same development and research tools-in very similar
ways. Ergo, they get similar results, and category after category is filled
with products that are not distinguished from one another and lack
To change this, new product developers should inject creativity into the
process, and use their methods and tools in different ways. For example:
BRAINSTORM ANONYMOUSLY. Traditional group brainstorming
sessions actually inhibit ideation. Human nature being what it is, some
people are shy in a group, while others are reluctant to voice what might be
viewed as a "bad" idea. (The mantra of "no bad ideas" is often subverted by
the group's non-verbal reactions; some ideas get built on immediately, while
others evoke silence.) So, consider brainstorming anonymously using an
online "ideation chat room" (each participant is identified only by a code
number). This allows all group members to open up and new product ideas to
flow freely. There are several software programs available for this.
ENCOURAGE CONSUMERS TO BRING THE PRODUCTS THEY USE TO FOCUS GROUPS.
Show and tell works. When consumers can point to the actual products they
use as they discuss them, a clearer understanding of attitudes can emerge.
In developing eyewear, for example, we had consumers bring in their
eyeglasses- most had several or more current pairs-and explain the usage
occasions for each one. This helped us understand more sharply the potential
(and limitations) for premium eyewear concepts. We've done the same with a
range of consumer products.
EXPLORE A BENEFIT THAT IS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT SHOULD WORK.
Throwing an outrageous concept into the mix can get consumers talking about
your category in different ways. For example, in developing a new deodorant,
you might explore a product idea that claims to let some of the body's
natural odor come through. For spaghetti sauce, create a concept that
promises a smooth texture with absolutely no herbs and spices. These
"opposite" concepts can stimulate a focus group discussion and lead to
insights that might not otherwise be uncovered.
OBSERVE THE PRODUCT BEING USED. Have the members of the new
product team go into homes and watch how consumers actually use a product.
Some years ago, we worked on a dishwashing liquid which, as most brands
still do, claimed a superior grease-cutting ability: "A few drops are
enough!" Accordingly, R & D was hard at work developing formulas where even
fewer drops would be needed. Yet, during in-home visits, we observed that
even the most dedicated product users weren't heeding the "few drops"
message, and were squeezing out far more liquid than they really needed. The
recommendation to R & D was to focus away from making a more concentrated
DO A QUANTITATIVE ANALYSIS OF QUALITATIVE VERBATIMS. Regular
focus groups, properly moderated, are a powerful tool already. But,
analyzing them with a little creativity can lead to even more golden
insights. One very effective technique is a computerized method called
verbatim mapping (VerMap), that analyzes the transcripts of group
discussions. Also known as "Self-Organizing Artificial Neural Network
Analysis," it evidences words that are juxtaposed frequently, as well as
those that show negative associations (i.e., when a particular word appears,
others never do). These word/concept relationships can be subjected to
sophisticated statistical analyses-e.g., cluster analysis-to provide
insights that might otherwise remain hidden.
Of course, there are numerous other creative twists possible. The key lies
in searching for ways to customize your research tools-by looking at
possibilities on the "other side of the road"-to uncover the insights your
competitors will overlook with traditional methods. You may not conquer the
world, but you will surely increase your chances of developing a product
with a compelling customer benefit, and a tactical advantage in the
Phil Glowatz (718.343.6535) is a qualitative researcher and creative
director, and Jacques Chevron (708.784.0730) is a consultant in marketing
and branding strategy. Phil and Jacques have created the JP Group to work
together on client assignments.
© 2002 Phil Glowatz and Jacques Chevron