Blog Roderik Sorbi – Senior Client Consultant

 
We all know the ideal picture: developing a great new successful innovative concept, based on an insight. However, over the years I have found that it doesn’t always work like that. Not all innovations come from an insight. They sometimes come from entirely different angles. So, let’s discuss some of these altered roads to innovation I stumbled across with clients.

 

Road 1: Plastic not-so-fantastic
Probably one of the best current examples; the new European Strategy for Plastics. As of 2021, the European Union has banned all disposable plastic straws, cutlery and plates. The impact is major for a lot of companies. How are companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s reacting? Suddenly there is an urgent need to innovate. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When there’s pressure involved, companies are sometimes very well capable to come up with innovative solutions. However, there is a downside. The process can have entirely different factors playing a part than you’re used to, because companies simply have no other choice.

 
Road 2: New technologies
Innovation can also stem from new technologies that weren’t available before. The key word here? Relevance. For a new technology that has found its relevance over the past few years, look no further than the food industry. Eating meat that isn’t actually meat, is a lot more common these days. Companies are able to make vegetarian options taste just like their replacements. However, things don’t always run as smoothly. Some companies can have a great idea, know how it can be developed, and have an unbelievable creative strength to create something, but don’t have a clue about the relevance for the consumer.

 
Road 3: International affairs
Innovation can also come from an international angle. Imagine working for an international company that wants to bring out the next generation meals from all over the world. Sometimes these ideas come from the other side of the border. Ideas are presented to you from the different locations, and you want to know whether they would work in your country. This is also known as search and re-apply. The same goes for companies that look at what the competition is doing. Flavoured water? Great idea. Cucumber water? I’ll have some.

 
The altered innovation process
Now that we have mapped out some of the altered roads, how do we go from here? Let’s take the straws as an example. You sit down as a company, and brainstorm for ideas. And you come up with around 20. The next step is to screen these ideas on potential. You don’t want to create concepts for all 20 ideas, and waste a lot of time, money and energy. You first want to bring those 20 down to a few, like 2 or 3. And the only way to choose those 2 to 3 ideas with the most in-market potential, is to screen it by your target group. Before you further develop those most promising idea’s into concepts.

 
What is your proposition?
The next step is describing roughly what your idea is from a consumer’s perspective. Summarise in one sentence what the proposition of the product you want to develop is. For example: The richest superior coffee with a press of a button. Which was the core idea of Senseo about 20 years ago. Or: A fruit flavoured drink with rum from Bacardi. Later called: Breezer. If you present your idea like that, people know what you’re talking about, and can easily react.

 

Screening your ideas
Next up is the screening questioning. At DVJ Insights we employ the Total Emotional Response Profile. To map out the target group’s profile, one typically looks at buying intention. This is a commonly used method to see which idea has the highest success rate. But truth be told, buying intention is more related to short term success. Thus, lesser sensitive to more breakthrough ideas. However, the strength of innovation comes at different speeds. The closer the innovation hits to home, the stronger the likelihood someone will say ‘yes, I’ll buy that for sure.’ just because people will easily accept a line extension of a highly accepted category and/or brand. You are much likely to buy a Fanta Cassis when you are already familiar with a regular Fanta.

 
If you look at the Total Emotional Response, where we also take measures like new, different, worthwhile and interest into account, you look at it from a much more holistic point of view than just buying intention alone. As a result, you get more of a balanced response on innovation ideas that are a bit further out of people’s comfort zone, but could hold big potential. The greater you score on ‘new’ and ‘different’, the more unique and renewing you are, the tougher it is for people to say yes to a product. This may take some time. With the total emotional response profile, we are better able to understand the underlying thoughts and the longer-term plan. Once you have the profile, you know which ideas have the biggest chance of survival. Instead of working on 10 ideas, it has been brought down to 1 or 2. This gives a lot of focus and direction to companies. And a lot more reassurance when you go after the opportunity that has the most potential.

 
Which road should we take?
So, how are the drink companies of the world doing with regards to the plastic straw legislation? Starbucks announced last summer they will eliminate plastic straws globally by 2020. They ought to be replaced by a new recyclable straw-less lid and straws made from alternative materials, including paper or compostable plastic, for their famous Frappuccino’s and for those who prefer or need to use a straw.

 

(Starbucks, 2018)

 

An innovation team at a multinational such as Starbucks probably had around a hundred different ideas, before coming to their needed solution for the plastic straw. Successful innovations can begin based on a lot of different angles, whether it being new technologies, international interference, an insight or legislation. So long it’s tested among your target audience, I don’t mind the road we take.