Innovation Process – How to plan, decide, and launch the best new products

𝗜𝗻𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗯𝗲 𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗼𝗺. 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗿𝗲𝘀 𝗮 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻. It is crucial to make innovation planning a core practice within your organization and embed an innovative spirit into the culture. While we use a Strategic ThinkBox to come up with your plan, I will introduce our Marketing PlayBox that helps stay on strategy through the execution. We recommend that you build your own stage-gate innovation process that includes regular brainstorming, and consistent stages of approval, that have diligence and oversight on decisions. It could be used for any new product development whether it is a new technology, new service ideas, a new way to treat a disease, or a new cookie.

To illustrate, click on the innovative process above to zoom in.

What should Volvo do if someone on their team randomly invented the world's fastest engine?

I love asking this question. Does this new engine line up with the brand’s current target, or align to Volvo’s reputation for safety? Not even close. Could Volvo transform their brand to get consumers to buy this fastest engine? Sure, but it would take decades. If the goal is to maximize the wealth from this new engine, Volvo would be much better off selling this new technology to Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche. They would pay more for it than Volvo could make from it. 

This sets up the idea of brand/market fit. 

Marketing PlayBox

The best creative marketing ideas come through in-the-box creativity using problem solving where the box is your brand strategy. Alternatively, save your blue sky out-of-the-box thinking for random inventions or the launch of a new brand. This in-the-box creativity can be used for any marketing execution, whether that is advertising, innovation, in-store, or consumer experience. In this article, we’ll focus on using it for new product innovation.   

Our Marketing PlayBox that marketing ideas need to play in has four dimensions.

First, all marketing ideas must be focused on the brand’s desired target market. Second, they must fit with the brand. Third, the marketing ideas must deliver the brand’s message. Finally, they must execute the brand strategy to move consumers in ways that benefit our brand.

To illustrate, click on the Marketing PlayBox above to zoom in.

The ABC's of New Product Innovation

As we did with our Advertising checklist that uses our ABC’s of advertising, we want innovative ideas that fit our Marketing PlayBox. We can twist our ABC’s tool to ensure the best innovations attract consumers (A), build on the brand’s strengths (B), communicate the brand idea (C), and achieve a successful entry into the market (S).

To illustrate, click on the ABC’s of new product innovation  above to zoom in.

Does the innovation idea attract consumers to create enough desire? (A)

Focus on ideas that generate enough consumer demand to help the innovation reach volume thresholds to impact both the category and the brand significantly. It must create a market impact that will tighten the brand’s bond with consumers, moves consumers along their journey, or adds to the brand’s reputation.

Does the innovation idea build on the brand's strengths? (B)

Focus on ideas that build on the brand’s manufacturing or servicing processes to ensure higher profitability and less reliance on partnerships to cover weaknesses. Pick ideas that match the go-to-market abilities of your current sales team and fit with the distribution, warehousing, and shipping.

Does the innovation idea communicate the brand idea? (C)

Focus on ideas that communicate your brand idea so that you can continue to differentiate your brand in the consumer’s mind. When it fits with the brand idea, you can generate early trial from your brand’s most loyal consumers to help provide an easy entry for the innovation.

Does the innovation idea provide a successful entry into the marketplace? (S)

Focus on ideas that provide profitable units you can sell to generate initial success, prevent competitors from duplicating your new offering, and lead to a long-term return on investment and effort.

Start with an Innovation Plan.

Set up the in-the-box creativity by creating the box.

For new product innovation, the Innovation Plan sets up the Marketing PlayBox that will steer the new products team to come up with the best ideas. Next, once new product concepts are built, use our innovation checklist to decide if the work is in the box. Likewise, a smart innovation process predicts which new products will deliver the best growth for the brand.

To illustrate, click on the innovative plan above to zoom in.

Use your innovation plan to create the box that your new product ideas must play in.

Use your brand idea to guide the product development team to manage innovation ideas at the exploratory stage, (beyond five years), pipeline ideas (two to five years) and go-to-market launch plans (within the next two years). As the brand leader, you need to influence, manage, and even direct your product development team to ensure they focus on the brand strategy.

Generate new innovation ideas

Identify need states

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a smart logic and focus on understanding your consumers’ needs. The best marketers gain comfort in exploring the psychology models to help with how consumers see the world, whether borrowing Carl Jung’s archetypes to help define a brand’s personality or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to tap into the mindset of consumers.

As famous as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there is very little scientific basis to the idea. That’s ok. We are only borrowing the concept, not psychoanalyzing an individual. In theory, Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging and love”, “social needs,” or “esteem,” and “self-actualization.”

To illustrate, click on the consumer needs above to zoom in.

Our 24 consumer need states

We use 12 different functional needs and 12 different emotional needs. Knowing your consumer target, start thinking about what you think makes sense for them. You can uses these consumer needs to begin brainstorming more specific needs. Importantly, keep an ear out for how your target expresses these needs. Or, how these show up for the category. 

For example, for Gray’s Cookies, sensory appeal could lead to exploring improved textures of the cookies. Curiosity for knowledge could lead to exploring ingredients from all over the world. Control could lead to exploring a convenience option. Try it out on your next brainstorm. 

To illustrate, click on the consumer needs above to zoom in.

Types of Innovation

Above all, balance your product innovation investment in high risk / high reward ideas with easier / smaller ideas to keep your brand fresh. While we all love the big ideas, small easy innovation plays a role of adding revenue/profit to keep pushing for those super-big ideas. 

To illustrate, click on the types of new product innovation.

Range of innovation ideas

Clearly, brands have a range of innovation options starting with product extensions which are most straightforward and lowest risk, but likely lower gains. Importantly, at the other extreme, blue ocean exploratory is the highest risk and challenging, but it could bring the highest gains. 

Product extensions: 

First, identify new consumer needs that your brand can handle. Broaden portfolio to neutralize competitors or gain a share of shelf. Admittedly, use product extensions to keep the brand fresh with new benefits, flavors, and sizes.

Product improvements: 

Identify where you are losing consumers. Consequently, help isolate flaws and gaps in your brand that need fixing so that your brand moves ahead or catches up to competitors.

New formats: 

Stretch brand into new subcategories/adjacencies or parts of the value chain to get into new parts of the store, new distribution channels, or new usage occasions.

Brand stretching: 

In short, take brand assets into new business opportunities—bringing loyal users and brand idea.

Game-changing technology: 

Briefly, these are R&D-driven inventions matched up to fit the changing needs of consumers.

Blue ocean exploratory: 

Indeed, these ideas combine your technical capabilities, matched to pure unexplored consumer need states to create game-changing launches to move into fully protected blue oceans.

Innovation Examples

Innovation Process Innovation Checklist
Innovation Process Innovation Checklist
Innovation Process Innovation Checklist

Use these same six types for B2B new product innovation

To illustrate, click on the types of new product innovation for B2B brands.

Brainstorming session

Brainstorming ideas

Marketing teams should have regular brainstorming sessions. The team will stay fresh and open. Brand jobs can eat you up, forecasting, deadlines, reports can all make you stale. Having regular intervals of ideation helps to disrupt the workflow to motivate and engage the team.

Diverge, converge, diverge, converge

A great brainstorming technique is to divide the room into groups of 5, with six stations around the room, for each of these types of innovation types above.

To illustrate, click on the brainstorming process to find various types of new product innovation.

Diverge #1: Generate a lot of ideas 

Start with a 20 minute, rapid fire generation of ideas. Encourage as many ideas as possible. Then rotate everyone to the next station, and do a 10-minute rapid fire addition. Keep going until the groups are back at their original stations. 

Converge #1: Narrow down to the best idea

At each station, narrow down to the three best ideas. With the six stations, that gives you 18 ideas overall to get into the pipeline. 
One way to sort the ideas is using our Big Easy tool below. Plot the ideas onto the grid as to whether the idea will have a big impact versus a small impact on your business results, and whether the tactical idea will be easy to execute versus difficult to execute. 

To illustrate, click on our big easy marketing execution decision-making tool.

Diverge #2: Take each idea and write a product concept

Get each team to write out new product concepts that includes a headlines, consumer insight, main benefit, support point, key visual (mock up of the pack shot) and a call-to-action. Below are examples and definitions to help you build your own. Read more on how to come up with concepts.

New Product Concept examples

To illustrate, click on the product concepts for new product innovation.

  • Headline: The main headline should capture the brand idea. The headline is the first thing consumers will see, and it will influence how they engage with the rest of the concept. 
  • Insights: Start every concept with a consumer insight (connection point) or consumer enemy (pain point) to captivate the consumer enough to make them stop and think, “That’s exactly how I feel.” Your consumers feel more engaged with your concept. The enemy or insight must also set up the brand promise.
  • Promise: The promise statement must bring the main consumer benefit to life with a balance of emotional and functional benefits.  
  • Support points: The support points should close off any gaps that consumers may have after reading the main benefit. An emotional benefit may require functional support to cover off any lingering doubt.
  • Call-to-action: Complete the concept with a motivating call-to-action to prompt the consumer’s purchase intent, which is a significant part of concept testing. Adding a supporting visual is recommended. 

Converge #2

Now get the team together and present the 18 concepts. Hold a team discussion and vote to narrow down to the best ideas to move forward with market research.

Market Research - New Product tests

Qualitative Testing

Once you have the concepts ready, focus groups are a great market research method to better understand consumer thoughts and opinions about new product ideas. It’s a great chance to hear their thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions. You can go deeper into consumer issues or concerns. A good moderator can open up deep and specific discussions on product and their features. 

The focus group helps to see which ideas consumers are interested in, or make adjustments to the product concepts before testing further. 

Quantitative Testing

Quantitative market research is a type of market research that relies on numerical data to evaluate the size, scope, and needs of a target audience.

The quant testing looks for specific metrics in order to measure the success or failure of a particular product or service. Quantitative data can be collected through a variety of methods such as surveys, focus groups, and studying trends in existing financial reports.

These studies can ensure the selected prototype continue to improve at each stage. 

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Market Research

Qualitative research is generally more expensive and time-consuming than quantitative research. It is often used when the goal is to find out about people’s attitudes and opinions, rather than get hard data on how many people do what.

Quantitative research involves surveying a large number of respondents in order to come up with accurate statistics on things like brand awareness or lifestyle choices. This type of research is usually used in areas where there are strict deadlines, so it’s best for when you need to know the facts in a hurry!

For concept testing, I prefer a balance of qualitative and quantitative. I want to listen for details, and get an accurate projection to help me build a launch plan. 

If you don’t have a big budget, here’s a do-it-yourself market research

Innovation Checklist

Innovation Checklist helps decide if the innovation idea fits the Marketing Playbox.

Using our innovation checklist helps to compare various options. Here is the seven factors to consider and how it looks using our innovation checklist. 

  • Consumer demand to achieve volume thresholds 
  • Leverages brand idea to make for an easy entry
  • Builds on your strengths of manufacturing or servicing
  • Matches up with go-to-market of sales and distribution
  • Profit payback and margin fit within the portfolio 
  • The competitive intensity of the category you enter
  • Ability to be successful in the long run

New Product Launch Plans

Innovation Plan as part of our Marketing Plan template

Our Marketing Plan presentation template has strategic slides that cover the brand vision, purpose, key issues, and strategies for the organization. And, we offer marketing execution slides that include: advertising, social media, search, event marketing, sampling, new product launches, or new product pipeline. 

Our marketing plan template provides formatted PowerPoint slides with key definitions where you can insert your own ideas. We include a fully completed marketing plan that is easy to follow along and ready for you to tailor with your plan.

New Products Pipeline: Five-year map of product innovation ideas categorized based on product extensions, product improvements, new formats, brand stretching, game-changing, or the blue ocean ideas.

New Product Launch Plan: Go-to-market plan for the launches coming to market in the next year.

Sales Forecast: Our marketing plan template includes various financial pages for a sales forecast, marketing budget, or profit and loss statement.

Innovation Plan slides to present to management

To illustrate, click on the innovation plan pages from our Marketing Plan template.

Marketing Excellence

We empower the ambitious to achieve the extraordinary.

Without a doubt, our role at Beloved Brands is to help the ambitious marketers who are trying to improve their marketing skills. Most importantly, we will prepare you so you can reach your full potential in your career. You will learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, marketing execution, and marketing analytics. As well, we provide a suite of marketing tools, templates that will make it easier to do your job, processes that you can follow, and provocative thoughts to trigger your thinking. 

Have you gone through an assessment of the marketing skills of your team? Take a look below:

The fundamentals of marketing matter.

Our Beloved Brands marketing training programs cover different streams to suit the type of marketer you are. For instance, our marketing training covers consumer marketing, B2B marketing, and Healthcare marketing. 

The marketing fundamentals that we show in this article are part of what we use in our marketing training programs. Ambitious marketers will learn about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, marketing execution, writing creative briefs, advertising decision-making, marketing analytics, and marketing finance

Importantly, when you invest in our marketing training program, you will help your team gain the marketing skills they need to succeed. Without a doubt, you will see your people make smarter decisions and produce exceptional work that drives business growth. 

Finally, I wrote our Beloved Brands playbook to help you build a brand that your consumers will love. If you are a B2B marketer, try our B2B Brands playbook. And, if you are a Healthcare Marketer, try our Healthcare Brands playbook.

We designed our brand templates to make it easier for you to do your job.

Moreover, we provide brand templates that help you run your brand. For instance, you can find templates for marketing plans, brand positioning, creative briefs, and business reviews. Altogether, we offer brand toolkits with all the presentation slides you need. 

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Importantly, Brand leaders need to know how to think, define, plan, execute and analyze with the best of them. Moreover, while the brand leaders don’t really know how to do anything, they are looked upon to make every decision. Have a look at our five minute video on everything a marketer must know. To read more, click on this link: Everything.

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If you are looking to make your marketing team smarter, we can help. To get started, email Graham Robertson at [email protected]

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