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Innovation success recipe: Respect consumers and draw inspiration from the unknown

By Kacey Culliney+

29-Apr-2014
Last updated the 29-Apr-2014 at 14:16 GMT

Understanding consumer expectations and respecting these, combined with a boldness to draw inspiration from new areas is the perfect mix for successful innovation, say experts.

Speaking to FoodNavigator at Food Vision 2014 in Cannes, CEO of Inventours Michelle Greenwald and founder and president of The Healthy Marketing Team Peter Wennström said there were several factors food and beverage companies needed consider when planning innovation.

Firstly, understanding the brand or category innovation space was crucial, said Wennström.

“With every brand you can ask the same question and every consumer can tell you what they expect from the brand tomorrow. Respecting that means you can be very successful in brand innovation,” he said.

However, he said that unfortunately companies often disrespected this in favour of following their own ideas or brand agenda.

Consumers should always be involved

Greenwald agreed that working to fulfil the expectations of consumers was critical, but that understanding how a consumer uses that product and listening to feedback was equally important.

“It’s critical to get consumers involved along the way and once you have concept ideas and prototypes it’s great to get consumer feedback,” she said.

However she warned that when gathering feedback, it was better to be more direct with questions to get more relevant answers.

Inspiration from the unexpected

Greenwald also said it was also extremely important to look beyond your own category and space when drawing inspiration to innovate.

“There are so many examples of the greatest innovations where one industry is influenced by an entirely different industry,” she said. For example, the Nike trainers design that was inspired by a waffle iron or the apartment block inspired by honeycomb.

Asked if drawing inspiration from the unexpected could create a disconnect with consumers, she said that providing companies communicate their R&D simply and clearly, consumers would be able to buy into new concepts.

Communicating clearly and simply

Wennström agreed that it was essential for companies to break down their marketing communication into digestible terms for consumers, especially in the area of nutrition where claims were often quite complex.

“That is a challenge, to actually respect consumer understanding and language,” he said.

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