Eshu Sharma, Varun Satia, Nishtha Jain in Interview preparation |   May 10, 2022 . 25 min read

How to come up with an innovation?

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on launching innovations. You can view Part 2 on Bringing your innovation to life here.
This guide has been created to provide you directions to attempt the Reckitt Global Challenge 2021.
Now we know that some of you hate taking directions, and would rather hustle it out yourself. Well all the best to you. Mozart needed no teacher.
For the rest of you, let us set the context.
Creating an Innovation and marketing it is a challenging task. While there is a mob continuously fighting over how many new products fail every year, the general agreement is that at least as many as 3/4th of new innovations fail. Since this success rate is from marketers with years of experience, a line up of research agencies and a plethora of creative tools, and you on the other hand have, well, probably a fast internet connection and a super enthusiastic, slightly weird team mate, we thought we will help you out a bit.
This brief in no way advocates any one single way in which things should be done, nor does it claim to be an exhaustive hand book for everything you will face while attempting the challenge. Think of it as reading a book about raising a kitten. It will not prepare you for the late night crying or the consistent nail scratches, yet it will act as a source of some eternal truths, for example, keep them away from tulips, and calm you along the way when you see progress as mentioned in the book.
We would suggest you read this guide from start to finish in one go, and then probably refer to specific parts again when you are actually doing them. So let’s get started!
This is a two-part series on how to launch consumer product/ service innovations created for participants of the Reckitt Global Challenge 2021.
Similar to the previous years, the objective for Reckitt Global Challenge 2021 is to launch an innovation which solves an unmet need for the consumer, is strongly linked to an Reckitt Brand’s Purpose, and fuels brand growth in a scalable and sustainable manner. While this series will help you navigate the submission requirements as a Global Challenge participant, it will also be useful for anyone interested in bringing consumer product or service innovations to life, especially in the FMCG space.
In Part 1 of the series, we focus on the big picture by helping you understand:
  • What an Innovation is
  • How to discover consumer insights and leverage them for product ideas
  • How to scope out the opportunity to see if it makes business sense, including evaluating
  • the size of prize, fit with Brand Purpose, and financial viability
  • In Part 2, we cover aspects about  how to bring your innovation to  life, including how to
  • Come up with an impactful communication idea,
  • Design packaging that adds to the proposition
  • Figure an appropriate price strategy,
  • Create a high “RoI” media plan
  • Build an effective distribution and Go-to-market plan
  • So let’s begin!

    1: What is Innovation?

    Innovation in business isn’t simply a matter of coming up with something new and (seemingly) exciting. Instead, it’s first and foremost about creating better value for consumers. In other words, innovation, like most parts of business, is about solving problems that your consumers face better than any other solution available in the marketplace.
    Do we really need to convince you of its importance to business success? The pace at which products, technologies, trends and user needs evolve imply that a company that can master the “process” of innovation, if such a thing exists, can build for itself a sustainable growth engine- just like Reckitt has.
    The goal of innovation, then, is clear- it’s about unlocking growth. The obvious question is just how do we do that?
    Before we show you the process of innovation you can follow, let’s take a moment to look at various innovation possibilities through a framework called the Growth Equation.
    The reason we love this framework so much is because it buckets possibilities for growth in a given market into 4 categories- penetration, frequency, average weight of consumption, and pricing. To grow, you need to pull any one of these levers.
    To understand these possibilities better through the innovation prism, let us assume that you are tasked with the goal of driving growth for a condom brand.
    Growing penetration means expanding your audience base by attracting consumers that don’t consume your brand currently.
    In the case of condoms, you could do this by
  • Addressing barriers that potential users have in consuming your brand today. For instance,
    • You could identify untapped or poorly tapped needs and explore if you could solve them better. For instance, a if there is a large section of people who don’t use condoms (or use them but are dissatisfied with their current brand) because they don’t like the “feel” of it during sex, you could launch a product that feels like you have nothing on.
    • Or if price is a barrier to purchase, you could create an offering with similar benefits as your base (current) product but at a much lower price.
    • Etc.
  • Providing better solutions for triggers to consumption (triggers refer to core reasons why people consume a category). For instance,
    • If a certain set of condom consumers deeply care for protection against unwanted pregnancy/ disease, you could launch a product that offers more protection to attract this audience to your brand
    • If there a set of users who treat protection as hygiene and are looking for condom brands that maximize pleasure, you could launch a product that offers more on this aspect than current competitors
  • Frequency of Consumption
    The next lever of growth, frequency of consumption, can be driven by providing your brand’s current users with reasons to use it more frequently.

    For instance,

  • If you discovered that your current consumers were not using condoms as regularly as they’d have preferred because they simply kept running out of them without warning, you could launch a condom delivery service that would deliver a set number condoms to users’ homes at the start of every month
  • If you discovered that your current consumers were not using condoms as regularly as they’d have preferred because they simply kept running out of them without warning, you could launch a condom delivery service that would deliver a set number condoms to users’ homes at the start of every month
  • To point out the obvious, you would NOT launch a new product simply because your base brand is not being used on some occasion(s). If your base brand works equally well as the proposed new product in those untapped occasions, you don’t need this new product to drive frequency you could achieve that goal faster by simply communicating your base brand’s fit with the untapped occasions.
    Average weight of consumption
    The third lever of growth you can pull is average weight of consumption, which is a measure of how much quantity of your brand is consumed in a given occasion.
    For instance, you could launch a condom pack of 2, with both units supposed to be used in a single occasion. (Of course not too many people would need a product like that. Average weight of consumption is not usually a lever activated through innovation, but you get the point)
    Finally you could grow by incentivizing your current consumers to pay more per unit.

    In the case of condoms this could mean:

  • If you discover that your brand’s consumers are often looking to add spice and variety to their sex life, you could offer new and exciting flavours of condoms. In fact, you could keep offering new flavours to match ongoing trends (Covid-19 flavoured condoms, anyone?)
  • Live your fantasies Durex You could also launch signature condoms to celebrate special occasions (such as anniversaries)
  • Note- The assumption is that the new variants are priced higher per unit than the base version.
    A final suggestion before we get into the ‘how’ of innovation.

    Do not use the ideas mentioned in this document for your global challenge submission.

    Why, you may wonder…?
    For one, evaluators from Reckitt have access to this training material, but even more importantly, we have come up with these ideas in one sitting without any consumer work, expert speak, trend research etc. Some of these exist already, others should never exist in the first place. You are not likely to win this Challenge with these ideas. Don’t believe us? Read on to find out exactly what it takes to come up with winning innovation ideas.

    2: Figuring the Insight and Product Idea

    2.1 How to identify which category and brand to work on?
    The Global Challenge requires you to innovate for Reckitt for either of the following 2 categories: Hygiene, and Health. Each is in a unique position to make a difference in the world.
    Here is a glimpse into the purpose of some of the Reckitt brands (not an exhaustive list, but you can find this information easily on Reckitt:
    Go deep into them and their history to know what the brand stands for. Watch the commercials and initiatives that the brands have taken in the past 5 years to deeply understand their purpose so that you are able to suggest the innovations from a Brand Manager’s lens.
    Once you have a good sense of the various categories and brands, you get started with the problem at hand.
    The starting point for every innovation is to identify consumer pain point.
    Changing consumer behaviour is a huge ask and thus, if the pain is not real then they will not be motivated to try something new. The stronger the pain point, the better the chances of innovation working. So, in this step, open up your minds and go and talk to consumers and use various other forms of research to narrow down on the category and the brand that you want to work on.
    Step 1: Primary Research
    Talk to 10-20 consumers to understand their needs & problems in the areas of health/hygiene. This could be your family/friends or anyone whom you have direct access to. Go completely in depth in terms of the broader space and if possible, observe them and ask questions on practically everything that they are doing. This is a divergent exercise thus far and the idea is to make a note of all the little things that interest you.
    Let’s take examples of 2 different categories here. Make notes of consumer verbatims that point to an unresolved problem, an unfulfilled expectation or a need. Jot down these verbatims like,
    Laundry: “I hate when my recently bought clothes lose a shade after the first wash”
    Sexual wellness:“I wish my sex life was better. I rarely orgasm when we have sex. It feels more about him and his pleasure”
    Step 2: Secondary Research
    Do a secondary research i.e. read up on various reports, news articles and case studies that address the problems you’re interested in.
    Ensure that you read up on the problems specific to your country and the various trends in these spaces. It would also be useful to investigate the various vision statements & sustainability goals of different Reckitt brands and find resonance.

    For sexual wellness, based on what the consumers have told you, you could further research & find lots of reports to see the broad sentiment around these topics.

    Step 3: Explore a few Spaces through additional tools
    Now from Step 1 & Step 2 you should have found a few starting Spaces. You can now try and substantiate these Spaces using additional tools to collect more data points, including (but not limited) to the following:
    Tool 1: Keyword research
    In Keyword research, you listen into what users are actually searching for online.
    It is one of the most accurate researches since it isn’t plagued by a lot of problems that primary research has, like biased researcher, leading questions, etc. It is also very actionable as we get precise information about the size of each query.
    There are tons of use cases of Keyword research, such as  this example where figuring out the misspellings being searched by users made the ad campaign improve dramatically.
    Besides running ads, Keyword research is also very useful for:
  • To suggest new product categories: For example, a new toy company figuring out that toys for children with special needs is being searched for, and deciding to create toys of this category.
  • To create useful content: For example, One Plus can utilise keyword research to figure out that there is a specific issue that is being searched for a lot, and choose to create a video or blog content addressing it.
  • In this case our objective is to do a Keyword Research to get a better understanding of the consumer needs and hopefully find out some direction towards unresolved pain points.

    Step 1: Identifying Use-cases

    To be able to do Keyword Research, we must create use cases. i.e. finding all the possible use cases that our category has in the life of the consumers. It is a very “consumer-out way of thinking”.

    Let’s go back to our examples again:

    For Laundry: We would mention each and every use case in which the consumer might search for our category. For example, searches around:
  • ‘laundry near me’
  • ‘How to get out tough stains’ E.g. Pre-treatment of clothes, etc.
  • ‘How to care for my clothes better’
  • ‘Washing clothes of specific colors’ E.g. washing whites, washing dark clothes etc.
  • ‘Shrinking clothes’
  • For female orgasm: The following use cases might be important to explore:
    Searches around
  • ‘how to pleasure a woman?’
  • ‘women orgasm’
  • ‘can’t reach orgasm’
  • ‘better sex’
  • ‘sexual wellness products online’
  • ‘How to last longer in bed’
  • Etc.
  • Step 2: Extensive Keyword List

    Once all the use cases have been listed, start putting these in the  Google Keyword Planner. The GKP will throw up more keywords connected to the keywords that you have put in it. Keep putting them in an excel sheet. The more the number of people searching for a keyword, the bigger the problem is. However even smaller keywords can sometimes lead to interesting insights.
    Tool 2:
    This tool can really help build on what you were trying to do in Keyword Research. This tool will provide you a list of questions that people have with respect to any word. Click on each question and read up on what the people who ask these queries read. It is a good way to exhaustively research what all is being searched for.
    Tool 3: Google Trends
    Google trends gives you how a keyword has been trending across a specific time frame. It can be used to understand which keywords are growing in number and which are declining.
    Tool 4: Social Listening
    Social listening is a type of research which can be pretty useful for marketers. It helps you study sentiments of consumers on social media, providing you relevant data for a number of decisions, such as choosing a brand ambassador, making a statement, understanding competitor’s strengths, etc.
    While it’s a great tool to understand the competitor's  brand strategy, it is an equally useful one to understand what users are discussing about a specific category per se.
    Multitudes of tools like Awario ensure that you can look at individual user posts that mention the keywords that you are looking for. This gets you to hear straight from the users. You can also see what other brands are posting about your category and what is the conversation in popular culture like.
    You can also get a macro perspective by looking at reports that help you understand trends.
    Step 4: Converge
    Now with all the data points that you have gathered, it’s time to converge. Narrow down on Spaces which seem large, align with Reckitt’s brands and a deep pain point for the consumer.
    Since your goal is to investigate deeply in a short period of time, you might be better served by picking a Space where expertise will not be hard to come by, either because you already have pre-existing information (by being a consumer of it yourself), or you can find experts/ real consumers to speak with at a short notice

    A common question for students every year is whether you should narrow down a Space first or pick up a brand first.

    You can do either, and both options have their pros and cons. If you pick up a brand first and then narrow down on the Space, it will be much less chaotic and could lead to some deep and focused research with a good output, especially if you are on a clock. But if you pick up a Space first and struggle with it through various sources and with consumers - you will be going wide and the journey could be much harder to converge but can also lead to a goldmine insight which can then be married with the Reckitt brand that fits well with it.
    The output of this stage should be the broad category and the specific brand that you want to work on.

    2.2 How to do unbiased consumer immersions?

    In the good old pre-Covid days, this would have been best done by meeting the consumer in person, but a video call will be a good substitute now. You will try and understand their lives completely in the category that you want to go after. Structure your discussion a bit (with a discussion guide) but let it flow as whatever they say will tell you what to ask next.
    What is a Discussion Guide?
    It is a set of questions that you put together to use as a guide while conducting consumer immersions. This guide helps us prove or disprove the various hypotheses that we have created so far.
    One must start with broad questions (on their life, routines, food habits) and then move towards your category (hygiene in various aspects of life, family members, habits related to hygiene, behaviours towards the various aspects related to hygiene) and then various products or brands (what all products do they use, what do they like, don't like - ideally observe them go about their routine because they will not be able to tell you all that they struggle with and observe it with an open mind for various insights- you are looking for an innovation idea so will have to be something that is not available to them right now so will not be an a straightforward observation).
    Points to keep in mind while doing a consumer immersion:
  • Make it in a natural conversation format. If you are only asking questions and they are giving you one word/line answers - it is not going well.
  • Make them trust you by sharing your stories as well.
  • Don’t break their flow of thoughts
  • Inform the respondents that there are no right or wrong answers - everything that they say is interesting to you. Let them know that. Be curious, ask them little details about their home, about how life has changed, about what they think about getting back to normal, about their cooking process, about how they order groceries etc. Share your stories as well for her to feel comfortable.
  • Record the conversation if possible
  • Don’t use marketing terms
  • Ask follow up questions
  • Avoid asking leading questions
  • In consumer immersions, consumers may often give you solutions or some specific suggestions. Now for each of these, while you must make notes but remember that the more critical thing here is to make a note of the way in which they evaluate and measure value and not the actual suggestion. E.g. If the consumer tells you that they want a spray to clean the door handles, what they are really telling you is that they value portability and want to expend less effort. Customers might also use terms like ‘ease of use’ etc which is open to interpretation and is not an actionable input as you might have a different benchmark of ease of use as compared to someone else and there might be multiple ways of delivering it. For this, you want to go deeper into understanding what they mean by this.
    2.3 How to identify Product Insights?
    Let’s first understand what we mean by a Product insight.
    A Product insight is a problem that a consumer is facing and may or may not know about the solution.

    Note: it is always framed from the perspective of the consumer and hence in first person.

    Let's take examples of how the conversation with a consumer could flow and how can you get to these problems/needs and thereby the insights. Let us look at them for the laundry category:
    You will start the discussion by talking about their usual day and set up an understanding of the kind of person they are. Let's assume that you are visiting existing users of the category i.e. laundry. Let's take a look at the conversation that might happen:
    Some more questions that you can ask -
  • What do you use currently? Why?
  • Have you ever tried something different? What? Why?
  • Do you plan to try something else? Where did you come to know of it? Why do you want to try it?
  • What is your washing routine? How was it different when your maid was washing it?
  • Do you think these additional steps you have taken make your clothes virus-free? Why or why not?