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No one wins when playing it safe


Phrases such as “no pain, no gain” or “there are no half-measures” can refer to many things.  However, it seems, when it comes to branding or innovation these phrases go right out the window. The culprit behind playing it safe? The often-quoted statistic of 80% of new products fail within the first year. Avoiding a unique strategy because there is no proven track record leads to mediocrity.  Yet, being different and offering something new and different is what leads to success. These are the elements of a new product that make people take notice.

Of course, not everything that is different will lead to success. A calculated risk is required. If a company or a brand has done its due diligence and knows why the product is different – not just a different flavour, colour or price -- what is most appealing about that difference and to whom that difference is appealing, you have the beginnings of real differentiation. Let me be clear, due diligence is not just talking to a retailer to see if there is interest. In fact, new products should only be shared with the retailer after the homework has been done. If the evidence points to a truly innovative product, the retailer should want it because no other brands have it. The retailer may love the idea, but if consumers don’t love it you might as well build a glass case for permanent display because no one will buy it.

Doing it right means talking to the consumer about the product in different ways, both in terms of the words used to ask the question and the methods used to ask. Make sure you understand what consumers are saying by asking the same questions in different ways. Why are they saying what they are saying? Push the curtain aside to the motivations behind what is being said. Take the plunge if all the evidence supports the risk. Do you have a product that isn’t performing the way you want it to perform? Ask yourself if you did your due diligence.

There is an opportunity cost for everyone when real innovation is absent.

The retailer

In this rapidly changing retail grocery environment, one of the crucial points of differentiation for retailers will be product assortment. Providing the consumer with more than just the most common brand choices is going to be key. Whether it is a variety of food flavours, brands and unique tastes or better health and beauty brands or an assortment of kid-based offerings, what does your clientele want?  The winners will be the retailers that best understand their customers. What are they looking for and what is the best way to deliver on those needs?  To be known as an innovator and to build loyalty, a retailer will need to put a stake in the ground for what they stand for to get the consumer to make the journey to their store. Why should I go to your store versus the one around the corner?

The manufacturers

Unfortunately, manufacturers can’t innovate in isolation. Retailers have to be supportive and encouraging of the innovation. Manufacturers have to be prepared to take a calculated risk with a product that in testing has done well, even if it is off the beaten track. Innovation will have positive impact on both top and bottom line sales. Truly differentiated products can go beyond selling at the lowest price. If you give a consumer a relevant, value-based reason to buy one product over another, consumers won’t mind paying a little more.

The consumer

Consumers are always looking for ways to make their lives easier or better and they're willing to pay extra for it. Today, with literally every product available at their fingertips, consumers want easier access to more and better products. When the consumer’s needs are met, everyone wins – the consumer, the retailer and the manufacturer.

The next time someone suggests launching yet another variation on mac & cheese or a category captain offers to pay to have a competitor delisted, think again. Ask yourself what the benefits are in the long term. Take a bold step. Be something that will have the consumers coming back for more.

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