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Brand Innovation

How To Satisfy Consumers With New Products

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How To Satisfy Consumers With New Products

Too little time is spent thinking about how customers will decide whether a new product or service is a success. It’s often assumed that the customer will like the new offering, so the conversation focuses on business-oriented metrics—things such as first-year sales figures, breakeven time, and market share captured. Part of the reason we focus on business metrics is that they’re more easily measured. No one has come up with a formula or magic number for predicting ex ante whether a new product will succeed. Although it would be nice to suggest that you simply need to satisfy two jobs and alleviate three pain points, success is rarely this academic.

At the same time, we’ve found that the companies that have the greatest success are those that have figured out how to satisfy the right jobs and alleviate the right pain points. This means honing in on contexts that are particularly important or distressing. It requires understanding what truly motivates your target customer.

Case Study: Big Heart Pet Brands

The innovation team at Big Heart Pet Brands spent a lot of time with cat owners trying to understand their routines and the relationships they had with their pets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these relationships are driven by a complex web of emotional jobs punctuated by a number of functional pain points. The Big Heart team found that cat owners are continuously striving to get their independent cats to express affection, with feeding time playing an extremely important role. Dry cat foods are less expensive, less messy, and faster to serve. They can be left out all day, and it is easier to buy them in bulk quantities. At the same time, many cat owners will tell you that their cats prefer the taste, texture, and variety that come with wet foods. Based on the structure of the existing market, pet owners were forced to make a trade-off decision. They needed to choose whether it was more important to satisfy the emotional jobs related to pleasing their cats’ tastes or to avoid the functional pain points associated with wet foods. So with this constraint standing in the way, how did Big Heart meet the customer’s definition of success? It challenged the existing product category structure (which is driven primarily by supply chain issues) and avoided the wet/dry dichotomy altogether.

Big Heart took its insights into the jobs and pain points of its customers and developed a new product concept—a cat food with a dry exterior but a wet, meaty center. It tested exceptionally well with customers. Through rapid prototyping and continuous product improvement, Big Heart was ultimately able to create a product that consumers would love and that the company could cost-effectively manufacture at scale. The new product line—Meow Mix Tender Centers—won on both the functional and emotional levels, alleviating the need for the customer to choose between the two. As a result, combined sales for the first two years exceeded $100 million, a feat that has been achieved with only three pet food launches in the past five years. By focusing on an important aspect of the pet relationship—one charged with emotional concerns—the Big Heart team was able to satisfy customers in a big way.

More of this approach is featured in my new book JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.

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