Five Steps for Winning Product Innovation

Friday, July 15, 2022

As a specialist product innovation agency, we help leading brands to generate and identify a pipeline of winning ideas, concept and claims that drive product development linked to agreed innovation objectives.   

We use an agile, creative and collaborative 5-step "Zip-Zap approach”, with extra support from our team of Global Trend Scouts, Creative Agents, Creative Facilitators, Copy Editors and Artists. This is combined with Insight Deep Dives, Hothouse™ workshops, Consumer Innovation Labs™ and our fastSCREEN™ online consumer panels, for a faster and cost-effective way to test leading ideas.

The five main steps are summarized below, or watch at the following video to see the approach in action, and how it is enhanced by our online innovation platform, Zip-Zap Ideas®.

Step 1 - Define the Focus for Product Innovation

The first step is to define the focus and scope for innovation, with the problem you are trying to solve. This will guide deeper and more focused insight gathering activities, and encourage deeper thinking for new ideas in line with agreed objectives.  When defining the focus, we normally consider the “three Cs”: a) the needs and unmet needs of target CONSUMERS, together with any relevant market trends; b) the strength of the COMPANY and brand, together with any new pipeline technologies; c) the nature of the COMPETITION including product innovation strengths and opportunities.  We then look to define 3 or 4 specific innovation challenges linked to the needs of different consumer profiles, which can be further refined after work in steps 2 and 3 below.

Step 2 - Explore the Opportunity / Gather Early Insights

With the product innovation focus defined, we then gather deeper insights and “pain-points” linked to the agreed innovation challenge areas.  On most projects, the first thing that we do is to revisit “old data” with a fresh pair of eyes.  Many of the brands and companies that we work with, are sitting on huge amounts of data that can still be relevant.  The “old data” work is normally combined with “social media listening” where we track and capture additional insights from online blogs, community forums and competitive product reviews.  This work will normally produce the initial insights needed to inspire idea generation.  However, if there are gaps in thinking, we capture additional insights from consumer observational work or from online depth interviews.  To find out more, watch the following insight brainstorming video.

Step 3 - Explore the Opportunity / Identify Your “winSIGHTS”

All early insights from Step 2 are captured and posted into different themes using our online Zip-Zap platform.  Members of the project team use the platform to highlight insights with greatest potential and to post any comments.  This work can be done virtually or in an Insight Brainstorming Workshop.  Our team of Copy Editors then work to group and refine leading insights to ensure that we capture sufficient context to inspire winning innovation.  A good insight should inspire creative thinking, by capturing the situation; the specific problem or pain-point; and importantly, the “deeper why” behind the problem. For a typical project, we will refine around 20-40 leading insights that are evaluated with target consumers or key stakeholders, to help identify the “winSIGHTS” for creative focus.

Step 4 – Brainstorm Early Ideas Linked to Leading “winSIGHTS”

Step 4 is all about brainstorming early ideas and concepts linked to the leading “winSIGHTS” identified in step 3.  If you want fresh thinking, this work can be kick-started by an external team of Creative Agents or by Creative-Thinking Consumers.  Alternatively, we run 1 or 2 day Ideation Hothouse™ product innovation workshops with 12-24 delegates from different functional backgrounds.  The Hothouse™ events can be further enhanced with direct involvement from target consumers, either by attending the session to provide feedback, or via overnight evaluation of early ideas.  In addition to leading insights, creative thinking is encouraged by using different idea generation techniques and games.  Creative Facilitators should encourage delegates to truly think out-of-the-box, and all early ideas are captured and edited using our online Zip-Zap Ideas® platform. 

Step 5 – Refine and Identify Winning Ideas

In the final step, we group, re-write and refine around 20-24 “leading ideas” that are screened with target consumers and key stakeholders in priority markets.  Our team of Copy Editors take time to ensure all leading ideas are written using a “mini-concept” format with a similar length, language style, and with a clear benefit and claim that “hits the reader early”.  Ideas are screened randomly using our Zip-Zap platform, and we try to include at least two “known benchmarks” (ideas that have tested well in previous studies or that are already doing well in the market).  When assessing the results, we are looking for 3 or 4 ideas that are “significantly more appealing” based on a 90% or 95% level of confidence.  These winning ideas are then used to guide future product innovation work.  For example, as part of a Stage Gate process.  Check out the following video to see how we screen and test ideas on a typical project.

Get in touch if you have any questions or comments - we'd love to hear from you.