Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Are We actively Looking For New Product Opportunities?

My experience over the past four to five years is that very few companies have an active plan, systematic program of opportunity exploration. After three calls this week on this topic, I found that others do not believe that there is on-going research in their own companies.

Twenty years ago almost all companies that I came in contact with had some sort of a systematic program aimed at new opportunity exploration. However, with the advent of cost reduction, down sizing, and outsourcing, research interest is focused on the moment not the future. Corporate growth appears to be centered on acquisition as opposed to developments.

New product research within the corporate structure seems to emulate the Newton Formula. That is, waiting for the apple to fall and hit you on the head. How long will it take before the methods of exploration that were so successful in the 70s and 80s are forgotten? In the effort to reduce cost, I believe we have already lost track of those simple (and cheap) but valuable research methods that were used on an on-going basis within the products research department.

Because new opportunity exploration is not in the fore-front of our minds, we may miss opportunities for exacting information from the customer. Any time we are in contact with the customer, there should be an opportunity to collect those ideas that may become the valuable brands of the future.

Consider the simplicity of the following methods.

Dissatisfaction Monitor - Our field supervisors would carry around with them a set of 3 X 5 cards with different statements for use whenever test participants were sitting idle. Each card would have a sentence completion statement such as:

                I wish some laundry detergent manufacturer would make detergent that would ______________.
                I wish there was a shampoo that would ________________.
                I wish the was a paper towel that would not _____________.
                What I dislike about dishwashing detergents is that they all ______________.

Negative Brand Share -  This method can be either structured or unstructured. You can place interviewers in the store for interviewing shoppers (structured) or whenever you are in a store and see a purchase decision made, you can personally collect the information (unstructured). Basically, the interview deals with obtaining the reason for purchasing one brand rather than any of the others. Additional information such as relevant set should also be obtained in the process.

Visual Segmentation _ When attending a Focus Group, In-Home Discussion, or a CLT, we would carry sets of product category photographs of each brand in the category. Essentially when there was some dead time and a group of consumers available, you would use the photo graphics as a stimulus to lay out the photos showing the visual relationship of how the consumers see the market complete with a verbal description of the dimensions.

The same photographs can be used in collecting Brand Trade Off data.

The above methods are just a few of the very cheap but very valuable ways to approach category learning.

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