Monday, 18 April 2011 06:30

Does Your Company Reject Good Ideas?

Does Your Company Reject Good Ideas?Companies can be highly conservative in their adoption of new opportunities. Are they discerning or...possibly overly cautious?

Posted under: New Business Development
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 06:50

Brands Must Continually Innovate

It is increasingly challenging to be a vital branded consumer product these days. As always, brands must remain meaningfully differentiated from their national and regional competition in order to win and maintain market share. However, with dramatically enhanced quality and improved product and packaging features (often mirroring national brands), store brands are now regularly part of the consumers product "mix" when making purchase decisions. Quite simply, store brands have become highly acceptable, less costly alternatives to nationally branded options.

I am literally delighted by some store brands. (When is the last time you could say that about a store brand?) Target's Archer Farms breakfast cereals are among the best I've ever had. I brag about them to almost anyone who'll listen...and quite a few who really don't want to! Kroger's Private Selection stir-fry skillet meals are a terrific, easy-to-prepare meal option at an appealing (though not inexpensive) price.

Consider Costco's superb Kirkland brand. Costco identifies market segments in which branded goods generate strong business, and then develops a Kirkland product to rival, if not outright outdo the national offering, at a signficant discount. The product quality is typically outstanding. Costco also takes great pride in promoting their heightened price:value relationship versus national brands. In many instances, they offer larger container contents at lower cost than the national brands. Costco's clout has become so great, that they can even create custom co-branded products (e.g. Kirkland - Campbells soups).

Where does this leave national brands? I believe that more than ever, the onus is on them to continually innovate their products, demonstrate and promote their advantages to assert their relevance and to justify their pricing in consumer's minds (and pocketbooks). Telecommunications products and electronic entertainment products have been able to successfully accomplish this (e.g. Apple, Droid). P&G's Regenerist performance skin care products do as well, as does General Mills with its Romano's Macaroni Grill and Good Earth meal kits.

Which other brands have demonstrated leadership of this sort in their respective product categories? I'm interested in learning your thoughts.

Posted under: Innovation
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 06:30

Discern Your Customers' Unmet Needs

While it may seem hard to believe because of the oppressive heat many of us are currently experiencing, another Fall youth sports season is almost upon us. A veteran of many seasons of youth sports spectatorship, my wife Lee and I have proudly watched our children's athletic skills develop as they have matured. We've also noticed that there are a heck of a lot of other parents who transport their kids from one sports activity to another, and then stay to cheer them on. This has translated to a huge market for sports spectator gear for amateur athletics.

Posted under: Innovation
Wednesday, 12 October 2011 06:30

Welcome to the Open Innovation Bistro

Greetings, madame and monsieur. Welcome to the Open Innovation Bistro. We're glad you could join us this evening. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.No madame, we don't have a menu. Instead, we request that our guests share with us what they'd like for us to bring out to them. Yes, you tell us what you want, versus us trying to sell you what we have.

Posted under: Innovation
Monday, 17 October 2011 06:30

Does Innovation Have a Spiritual Component?

Allow me to preface this message by confiding that I am not a religious person. While there are certain values and personal qualities that guide my life and behavior towards others, I don't consider myself a spiritual person.

Posted under: Innovation
Monday, 14 November 2011 06:30

What Does Marketing Really Want?

What Does Marketing REALLY Want?

R&D executives routinely express frustration that they often must wait for Marketing to provide their new product needs. This information enables R&D to define its technology needs/wants. Why does it seem to take so long for Marketing to offer this direction?

I can recall an incident from several years ago while I was a Merchant (retail's term for Marketing Manager) working at Bath and Body Works' corporate headquarters. I attended a colleague's new product presentation to executive management. He presented what I considered a well-reasoned case for a new personal care product line.

On its merits, it seemed a good bet to be approved. However, I have learned that in retail, sharing executive management's sensibilities can sometimes be at least as important a success determinant as the logic employed in arguing one's case. His concept was deemed by management to not adequately reflect a sophistication that it felt was needed, based on comparative inspiration derived from a recent European retail shopping trip. His proposal was rejected and he had to go back to the drawing board. He also had to share this news with his R&D team members.

I share this anecdote simply because it helps offers perspective on some challenges Marketing can face when seeking to gain executive management approval to its new product plans.

I have found that corporate decision making can at times be far more subjective than one might imagine. I'm not suggesting in the example above that management was "wrong" to reject my colleague's proposal. Just that it can be difficult at times to predict success, and the criteria employed for making decisions.

Of course, I am recalling only a single incident, and it would be wrong to suggest that it is typical.

My point is: it can be tougher than it might seem that it should be for Marketing to earn management's green light for its new initiatives.What is your experience in this area?

Posted under: Business Solutions
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 06:30

What is a Cashmere Sweater?

"What is a cashmere sweater? It's some fabric, some buttons and a zipper". Les Wexner was having a teaching moment. He was explaining to a conference room full of Limited Brands merchant executives that in order for a cashmere sweater to command a premium price, it must be marketed compellingly, going well beyond simply describing its components.

Posted under: Innovation

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