How to Build a Pipeline of Winning Ideas

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The challenge for many brands that we work with is to create a sustainable pipeline of winning ideas, concepts or claims that can be used to drive product development linked to agreed innovation objectives.  

At Ideas First® we have evolved an agile, creative and collaborative 5-step approach that is designed to identify a pipeline of shorter and longer term ideas and claims, that are inspired by relevant customer insights and pain-points.  This work is enhanced with Insight Deep-Dives and Creative-Thinking Workshops; together with support from our team of Global Trend Scouts, Creative Agents, Copy Writers, Artists and idea screening with online panels.

To see the five steps in action, watch the following video, including details of how our approach is supported by our online innovation platform, Zip-Zap Ideas®.

Step 1 - Define a Tight Innovation Focus

The first step for any successful innovation project, is to be clear about the focus and scope for your innovation thinking, and the ultimate problem you are trying to solve.  In many cases, the innovation objective is often prescribed by the overall objectives and strategic direction of the business; what the business or brand is good at; or the agreed plans for the future.  However, the innovation project objective could be even tighter e.g. how to make brand X more accessible to younger people; how to make brand Y even better at delivering convenience; how to exploit emerging AI technologies for better customer service etc. On most projects, we normally identify 3 or 4 "Innovation Challenges" e.g. different customer profiles or end-benefit outcomes. Ultimately, a tighter focus will guide deeper and more creative thinking in the following 4 steps. For more information, read how to define your innovation focus.

Step 2 - Gather Deeper Insights and Trends

Now get ready to explore and go deeper, by gathering deeper insights and relevant trends that are linked to the agreed innovation focus from Step 1.  But don't be daunted by the task.  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 then normally combined with trend scouting from other markets, together with “social media listening” where we capture insights from online blogs, community forums or competitive product reviews.  To plug gaps in thinking, or to get fresh language, we look to capture additional insights from consumer observational work or from online depth interviews.  For more information, watch the following movie on finding deeper insights and trends.

Step 3 - Refine and Identify Your Star Inspiration Insights

All early insights and trends from Step 2 are normally captured and shared using our online Zip-Zap platform.  Insight agents and members of the project team are encouraged to use the platform to highlight the deeper insights with greatest potential.  This work can be done virtually or in an Insight Brainstorming Workshop.  Our team of Copy Writers 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 and context; 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 10-15 "Star Insights" that will drive creative thinking in Step 4. For more details, please read an earlier blog post on finding insights to inspire creative thinking.

Step 4 – Use Insights to Brainstorm Early Ideas and Claims

Step 4 is all about brainstorming early ideas and claims linked to the leading insights 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 Idea Hothouse™ workshops with 12-24 delegates from different functional backgrounds.  The Hothouse™ events can be further enhanced with direct involvement from target customers, either by attending the session to provide feedback, or via overnight online 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 – Identify The Winners and Keep on Innovating!

In the final step, and in order to fill the pipeline, we recommend that you look to refine and test between 20-40 "leading ideas”.  This should include some that have potential for short term execution, and others that will require longer term development.  We also recommend that, ahead of external customer testing, that final ideas and claims are refined by Copy Writers using a standard "mini-concept format".  This helps to ensure that you are looking to test "apples vs apples" with all ideas written to a similar length, language style, and where the benefit / claim “hits the reader early”.  Ideas can then be screened and tested randomly to identify the leading ideas with "greatest potential".  On most projects, we look to test ldeas against one or two “known benchmarks” (ideas that have tested well in previous studies or that are already doing well in the market).  And if you fail to find some real winners....either go back and start again but with a slightly different innovation focus, or maybe look to explore new areas of opportunity.  For more information, read a recent blog post on how to identify winning ideas and claims.


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