In this four-part series I’m exploring the ways to bring powerful differentiation to market with more seamless processes: building a strong bridge of communication between R&D and Marketing, exploring and leveraging product claims, using both the left and right brain in development, and ensuring a continuous influx of fresh technology insights.
Part 4: Keeping the Future Fresh
The best way to continue reaping the benefits of fresh thinking is to continually immerse in it. When you commit to knowing the tide and trends of the marketplace, you soon become expert at scanning the landscape. When something truly novel enters the frame, you recognize it immediately and jump on it before your competition even realizes the ramifications.
Keeping the future fresh is about creating intersections for ideas. Feed your innovation landscape a rich mix of inspiration to enjoy more “aha!” moments. As you begin to regularly connect insights with what others see as seemingly unrelated ideas, you exercise a skillset for recognizing strategic gold.
Feed it to me
It’s no surprise, recognizing and understanding trends requires consistent, strategic surveillance. There are many companies and consultants who do this as a service. If you subscribe to one of these customized services, ensure someone on your team (preferably an insightful translator) is devouring those reports. The magic can only happen when you supplement surveillance with insight on where the unmet market need meets an emerging trend or technology.
Consistency is key. Making creativity a habit. Famous choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote The Creative Habit in response to questions about how she continued to be so incredibly prolific in her work. For her, it was simply a matter of discipline. She tells us, “The more you are in the room working, experimenting, banging away at your objective, the more luck has a chance of biting you on the nose.”
The power of trends
How about an example. What about all the attention CBD oil lately? As the legal marijuana market lurches it’s way forward, the friendlier Cannabidiol (CBD) is showing up all over the place as a safe and non-addictive compound [Note: CBD oil can be made from Cannabis sativa or hemp. In states where cannabis is illegal, CBD oil must be made from hemp]. CBD is already marketed in a range of specialty CBD products, from bottled water to pet supplements. Could it become the next hot ingredient in sleep aids? Pain relief? Calming skin care?
Another trend-meets-need example is the shift in packaged product expectations with eCommerce. There are two big trends to mine: One is the elevated sensitivity to package waste. Refills are making waves again, everywhere from ultra high end lipsticks to the Loop system, in an effort to reduce waste. The other trend is experiential; eCommerce packaging doesn’t compete in retail space with vivid billboards and anti-pilfer devices; it has an entirely different role to play. The ideal eCommerce package creates an elegant unboxing event that consumers appreciate, or even a reuse opportunity as a display or storage system.
Where to look? Venture out of your market
There are gazillion great ways to feed your inbox with trends that match your interests. A few examples: TrendHunter. BuzzFeed. TechCrunch. TrendStop. FastCompany. The food industry has a great source for emerging insights called Seeds & Chips.
Watching your own segments for trends is obvious. What is less obvious, but far more fruitful, is watching adjacent or even unrelated markets. Spot a trend in an influencing market, interpret it for your brand, and you have a chance to ride the top of the wave with your product (or create your own wave!).
Technical teams often rely on supplier partners to bring them the latest and greatest. Not a bad strategy if you have strong relationships with innovative vendors and they bring you their ideas first. But chances are if you wait for vendors to bring you the next big idea, you’ll miss the chance for exclusivity.
Similarly, trade shows are where innovations are shared with a broad audience. But — if you go to the right show, like a show for an adjacent market or featuring innovative startups, you might strike gold. That is, if you recognize the gold when you see it.
Recognizing the gold
Getting away from your inbox is essential too. Explore a store you wouldn’t normally associate with your brand. Check out products that might be used in conjunction with your product. Touch the fabrics, handle the packaging, smell the fragrances. Immerse. Take along a friend or relative who fits your target user demographic to gain insight from them. This not only feeds the innovation landscape, it also opens the mind to make new critical connections between ideas.
Some of my best ideas have come from unexpected places like the automotive section, fertilizer application and irrigation systems, problems with fly fishing hooks getting caught where they shouldn’t (!), all things that seemingly had nothing to do with the product I was working on, but everything to do with the problem I was working to solve.
Gain the edge on fresh and new
Practically speaking, if you commit to keeping up with what’s cooking in the broader marketplace you still need insightful translating. What’s applicable? How could it translate to your market?
Ensure you have a translator on your team who can create intersections for new technology and ideas to collide with your market insights. What you build through this effort is the ability to quickly scan and recognize the gold that could apply to your vision for growth.