For many global companies, brand evolution is a natural part of running the business. As consumer attitudes and lifestyles change, so must brands if they want to continue to deliver value to their customers.
But in an effort to remain relevant, companies too often hinge their brand identities on current events and passing trends rather than thoughtfully forging a path forward. In this pursuit, many companies forget to first examine their place in the hearts and minds of customers. That’s a mistake because the stakes are high if you don’t get brand evolution right. This is a lesson Tropicana learned the hard way when, in 2009, it decided to drastically change the design of its packaging—a move that resulted in swift consumer backlash and a 20% sales drop.
Packaging is just one small part of your brand identity, but Tropicana’s misstep is a cautionary tale on the potentially risky consequences of making drastic changes to your brand without engaging with your customers first. In changing markets, it’s important to be nimble, but it’s even more crucial to step lightly and purposefully to maintain a healthy brand and avoid alienating existing customers.
We get it—evolving a well-recognized global brand is hard. Staying true to your brand while keeping up with the evolving habits and preferences of consumers is a tricky balance. But why do some companies pull off this transformation successfully while others confuse their customers and lose sales in the process? Examining three brands that are currently in transition can help answer this question.
Market Strategies releases new data as the battle over meal kits intensifies
Blue Apron (APRN) is having a really tough 2017. Just as the meal-kit delivery company went public at the end of June, Amazon (AMZN) announced its acquisition of Whole Foods, and the immediate threat of a new, much larger competitor to the Blue Apron brand emerged. Blue Apron slashed its planned issue price from $15 to $10, and as the drip-drip of Amazon/Whole Foods news continued into the fall, investors have fled and the company current trades at barely 50% of its issue price. Not surprisingly, experts are already proclaiming Blue Apron’s IPO as the worst of 2017.
It’s been downhill from there. In August, the company announced that it was cutting over 1,270 jobs at its New Jersey facility, representing nearly a quarter of total staff. And the latest chapter in the Blue Apron saga was a dismal earnings report for the second quarter of 2017, which showed that the company lost $31.6 million and 9% of its customer base. Blue Apron had to adjust its forecasts for the rest of the year, and announced that it would be significantly reducing its marketing spend in the back half of the year, which will have additional impact to the company’s top line growth and put further pressure on its stock price.
Retailers that can’t deliver a personalized experience are at serious risk of becoming irrelevant soon. According to a study from Accenture, 75% of shoppers are more likely to do business with companies that recognize them by name, offer relevant recommendations and remember their purchase history.
This study highlights that we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift in the shopper-retailer relationship. With mobile technology and a wealth of information at their fingertips, shoppers want an experience that’s tailored to their individual needs and desires. They crave a one-to-one relationship with the retailers they do business with—and they’ll happily switch brands if that expectation isn’t met.
In the race for personalization, digital natives have an early lead. That’s because they’ve built infrastructure and business models that enable the real-time collection of data and the delivery of customer needs. But both incumbents and newcomers in retail need to realize that personalization isn’t simply a technology problem—it’s an insight problem that revolves around the customer journey.
To get personalization right, retailers need to take a step back, start from the beginning and look at the big picture. It requires understanding not just the logical aspect of purchases, but also the emotional triggers that convince shoppers to buy.
A few days ago, I was in a meeting where someone defended a decision to cut Voice of the Consumer research before new product ideation sessions, citing a 1985 Playboy interview with Steve Jobs. To paraphrase, Apple wasn’t going to do market research on the Mac because they were the best judges of what’s great and what’s not. Jobs later added, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
For many marketers, the failure rate for new product introductions hovers around two-thirds. The inclination to drop research because discovery is not yielding new information is understandable, but killing consumer research because it’s somewhat costly and time consuming, or worse because the team thinks it knows better than its customers, is a perilous strategy.
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.
It’s common for qualitative research practitioners to cast a wide net to ensure no insight is left unconsidered, and many apply the same logic to their innovation efforts, aiming for the big, blue sky with the hopes of capturing a new, game-changing idea. In practice, however, I’ve seen this approach to innovation not only produce incremental or non-actionable results, but also shelve some of the best ideas to collecting dust. To find success in innovation, it’s important to act deliberately and remain cognizant about where you want (and don’t want) to go. Continue reading
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:
Editor’s Note: Our Consumer & Retail team is launching a blog series for the retail and FMCG industries. In the coming months, we’ll share our thoughts on recent advancements—backed by real-world examples—around the consumer journey from innovation and personalization to channel attribution/interaction and omnichannel marketing. Subscribe to FreshMR now so you don’t miss any updates.
The retail and FMCG industries face an uncertain marketplace where prior known certainties can no longer be relied upon. In that reality, there is nothing quite as exciting in product development research as helping clients discover the products of the future.
One notable example is the number of clients who have asked us to help them develop “company-specific norms.” Many clients have relied on ‘generic’ norms for their simulated market testing, but they’re now ready to move in a different direction. Why? One client responded quite clearly, “We’ve found ourselves developing concepts to ‘beat’ the testing process to move forward, rather than to actually meet consumer and market needs.” The tail was wagging the dog, and potential new products were being designed to beat the process. As a result, the process had become more important than the outcome. Changing the way they looked at normative data was just one way in which this company was trying to reassess their innovation journey to change success/failure outcomes.
I was recently explaining the idea of an in-home interview to my husband. “You would never let someone into the house!” he replied, knowing that I would be skeptical, at best, if invited to participate in one. However, I would agree to participate in this type of immersive research. Even though I am unabashedly, undeniably and thoroughly biased, I believe that helps me understand why some of the busiest professionals working in some of the most sensitive and regulated industries agree to do the same.
Yes, financial advisors are busy. Yes, doctors have to be careful about what they say and share. Yet both are willing to meet with us at their offices and talk for rather lengthy periods of time. There are certain industries—financial services and healthcare being two prominent examples—where compliance concerns, traditional thinking and precedent can falsely limit the qualitative method possibilities.