As Randall Hula noted in Forging a Clear PATH to Corporate Innovation, it is critical to involve the right types of consumers at the right points along the Innovation Journey. Instead of simply focusing on your Target Consumer, it is important to recognize how other types of consumers—Lead Users, Creatives, Early Adopters and Brand Advocates—can contribute to and strengthen the innovation process.
These different consumer research groups form naturally around shared traits and preferences, the exact kind of commonalities that can spell gold for marketers—and market researchers. But the keys to tapping into their potential lie in understanding and identifying members of each group and knowing when exactly in the Innovation Journey they can contribute most.
As discussed recently in the blog Forging a Clear Path to Corporate Innovation, involving consumers in the innovation process leads to a richer pipeline of new product ideas. Even in the absence of this approach, companies are constantly generating ideas for new products. With all these ideas coming in—from consumers, employees, management, consultants—on which should management develop into full concepts for testing?
Given the relatively low rate of success for new product launches (less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed first-year sales of $50 million—considered the benchmark of a highly successful launch; HBR, April 2011), and the cost and time in developing and testing concepts, selecting the right ideas for deeper concept testing is critical.
A clear definition of innovation, leadership who supports it and employees empowered to execute it are hallmarks of a strong innovation-oriented company. But, as my colleague Paul Donagher noted in Innovation Journey: Is It Better to be Lucky or Good?, the voice of the consumer is also important to product development research though including the right kind of consumer along the Innovation Journey is critical.
To include consumers in idea generation, we need a repeatable and reliable process that produces groundbreaking, market-relevant concepts by bringing creative individuals and forward-thinking consumers into the innovation process. This consumer-oriented process includes the following steps: