1. Observe how customers are using your product. Medical device company Medtronic has salespeople and market researchers regularly observe spine surgeons who use their products and competitive products to learn how to improve their own.
2. Ask customers about their problems with your products. Upon recognizing that consumers were frustrated that potato chips break and are difficult to save after opening the bag, Procter & Gamble designed Pringles to be uniform in size and encased in a protective tennis-ball-type can.
3. Ask customers about their dream products. Ask your customers what they want your product to do—even if the ideal sounds impossible. One 70-year-old camera user told Minolta he would like the camera to make his subjects look better and not show their wrinkles and aging. In response, Minolta produced a camera with two lenses—one for rendering softer images of older subjects.
4. Use a customer advisory board to comment on your company’s ideas. Levi Strauss uses youth panels to discuss lifestyles, habits, values, and brand engagements, while Cisco runs customer forums to improve its offerings.
5. Use websites for new ideas. Companies can use specialized search engines such as Technorati and Daypop to find blogs and postings relevant to their businesses. P&G’s site has “We’re Listening” and “Share Your Thoughts” sections and “Advisory Feedback” sessions to gain advice and feedback from customers.
6. Form a brand community of enthusiasts who discuss your product. Sony engages in collaborative dialogues with consumers to co-develop Sony’s PlayStation 2.
7. Encourage or challenge your customers to change or improve your product. Salesforce.com wants its users to develop and share new software applications using simple programming tools. LSI Logic Corporation, designer of semiconductors and software, provides customers with do-it-yourself toolkits to allow them to design their own specialized chips; and car maker BMW posted a toolkit on its website to let customers develop ideas using telematics and in-car online services.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Philip and Milton Kotler, excerpted from their book, Market Your Way To Growth with permission from Wiley Publishing.
Sponsored by: The Brand Storytelling Workshop
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