Beware of the 7 deadly sins of innovation

4. Believing you can create needs

Some manufacturers believe the customer doesn’t know what they need, so they create a completely new need that never existed before, despite customer insights.
One manufacturer conducted research into whether cats can taste, and studies found that they cannot differentiate by taste, but rather texture. So, the manufacturer created dried cat food with no flavour – did this interest the customer? No.

That’s because it is not the cat that is buying the food; the purchaser is the owner and if they think their cat can taste, they like to have variants of flavour that looks as good as it tastes. Often these flavours and requirements are based on human needs and aspirations rather than the cats, such as Iams Natures Wellness, which advertises that it contains each of the major food groups and anti-oxidants.

Humans are often illogical and contradictory, that’s what makes marketing so interesting. Creating products based around facts does not always lead to successful innovation. Building a concept from customer insight is far more effective.

5. Overcomplicating stuff

There is a new kind of cosmetic called the nutriceutical; a beauty product that works from the inside out. One product is a pill that makes you ‘brown from the inside’. There are many ways of getting a tan; fake it, sunbed or old fashioned sunbathing. The reason people don’t do many of these things is because they think it may be dangerous for them. So, will they be convinced to take a pill? I doubt it.

Making innovation simple can be beautifully elegant. In South Korea S-Oil put balloons in car parking spaces so when you drive into it, the balloon disappears under the car and when you leave, it rises up and lets others know that the space is free, saving thousands of wasted hours and millions of litres of wasted fuel. Is this concept any less innovative because the insight is great but the technology is not complicated?

6. Believing your customer is a fool

The BIC Cristal pen made for women claims to be designed for smaller hands and can write twice as much as a normal BIC. Now, you only have to look at the feedback comments on Amazon to realise that the customer recognises the absurdity of the product, which in turn damages the reputation and market value of the brand. They see it as not only lacking insight, but also fundamentally patronising and superficial.

Never assume the customer is a fool, because they are wise to poor innovation and will turn to forums and social media outlets to discuss and inform other potential customers about the flawed concept.

7. Focusing on function not emotion 

Remember, the customer doesn’t always want to know how a product is made if it reflects poorly on the brand identity. Don’t tell them how you’ve done it – all they want to know is how it makes them feel.

In Scandinavia, people search for rocks on beaches that eventually fetch millions of pounds. The material they are looking for is Ambergris, also known as a Whale Gallstone, which the whale throws up. Who is paying millions of dollars for it? Well Ambergris is a key component in fine fragrances. Do you think your significant other wants to know that her perfume contains whale vomit when you present it on Valentine’s Day? Remember, it’s important to sell the emotion, not the function.

Mat Shore is a professional innovations speaker and founder of Outside In, a consulting and training company specialising in creating competitive insights and value propositions.

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