Sunday, June 12, 2011

Innovation In Practice

There is a new product in stores now which I saw an ad for the other day. It's interesting to me because it is a clever innovation that reminds me of my favorite class from my graduate program in Marketing.

In our course on innovation as a teachable/learned skill rather than a gift you are born with (or not), we used a systematic process with which to innovate. There are five methods. This particular innovation, I believe, uses the method entitled "Task Unification". The steps are as follows:

1. List the components of the Product or Service
2. Assign an additional task to one component
3. Visualize the resulting product
4. Identify potential market or customer needs
5. Modify the concept to improve it

The product is microwave popcorn by Orville Redenbacher. The innovation is the Pop-Up Bowl. Popcorn is microwaved in a bag. Once popped, the popcorn is (usually) transferred into a bowl to eat. By assigning the bag the additional task of becoming an easy to eat out of bowl, the Redenbacher company is meeting an additional customer need. The user no longer has to find a bowl - one big enough to fit the popcorn, or have another dish to wash later. This isn't a mind-blowing, life-changing innovation to be sure, but it is a clever way to bring something new to the category and stand out from the competition.

Neutrogena's Hilton Hotel Placement

I took a trip to Cleveland, OH over the weekend for a family event. Some of us stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn up there. The rooms were very nice, as were the amenities and staff.

One thing I found particularly interesting were the toiletries in the bathroom (pictured above). There was a little stand with a boxed shower cap and bar of soap. In a row up front were a bottle of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and mouthwash. These items were replenished whenever the room was cleaned. These products were not branded "Hilton Garden Inn" (as used to be the case with hotel items), but rather "Neutrogena". Nowadays, this may happen all the time, but I don't stay at hotels all that often.

This is a great example of collaborative, or joint marketing between these two companies that can really reach a customer at the right place and right time - and affect future purchase decisions. Toiletry items are something travelers are often in need of, and regularly forget while packing their bags. Instead of running out to the store, it helps to be able to offer a small, sample size to guests.

But, this example takes the amenity idea a step further. Instead of giving a hotel guest a generic bar of soap and bottle of shampoo, why not offer a branded set of items that guests can believe in? People know the name Neutrogena, so they can trust in the quality of the product they are using. This is true even if they are not already a Neutrogena user. If they are not, they get a trial period right now to see what they think. If they are, well, they get the satisfaction of using the product they prefer. In both cases, customers will be happy with both brands for taking care of their needs. And, it is very possible that they recall the brands more positively in the future. In addition, both brands are able to mirror each other's image in the market place and reinforce this image with customers.

What a simple marketing idea for collaborating where it makes sense (where both brands have something the other can use), and working together to establish brand awareness, satisfaction, and loyalty.