What’s New, Pussycat?
by Sara Sutton
Yes, I like the music of Tom Jones and other crooners. I also enjoy jazz and many other genres of music. And I like cats (and all animals in general)!However, I bring up this tongue-in-cheek, somewhat old-fashioned song for another reason: “What’s new?” is a question that product-oriented companies face all the time. For service-oriented companies, that question is often “What’s different or unique about the services your company offers?”
In fact, a popular saying, “Innovate or die,” has long meant that if you aren’t changing with the times, you will eventually be obsolete. Forty years ago, when this phrase was more widely used, the pace of business and the pace of change were much slower than they are now.
So why is being new or unique so important? Because it begets attention, which is the first hurdle all companies face in the marketplace. That is, gaining an audience and a general interest in your product (or service) is the first step towards purchase. On a grander scale, becoming known as a company that is great at something or has great ideas is a step towards loyalty (via inherent brand equity and associated trust).
I am not advocating that new products and services are the only things that can drive success. But knowing what your customers and stakeholders (investors, employees, etc.) want certainly does have a strong hand in driving success. And those wants and needs certainly change as time passes.
A few recent examples from my work in the medical, health, and wellness verticals:
- Based on a segmentation done a few years back, a well-known premium health and beauty products manufacturer thought that their target customers were mostly women aged 45-64. For many years, the manufacturer’s ads, messaging, and new-product development efforts were focused mostly on this group. However, a broader piece of research we conducted allowed the manufacturer to realize that a significant portion of customers (and potential customers) were men, and that their target age range was much broader than they previously thought (due to the appeal of a few of their newer products to those groups).
- Many medical and pharmaceutical companies have extended their listening mindset from being healthcare-provider-centric to being more inclusive of patients, caregivers, and ancillary health providers, as well. It isn’t only the pill or device that matters, but also the support programs the manufacturer provides, the ease of opening and administering the product without error, and other factors that can set these products above their competitors. And using these consumer-based needs in messaging was found to be more resonant than the typical messaging in head-to-head ad testing.
- With COVID-19 came a resurgence of interest in cooking at home, self-care, and the adoption of other new hobbies. Shortages helped to encourage consumers to try alternate brands, products, and shopping channels, making the need for differentiation (or being seen as new or unique) even more important. Some health- and wellness-product companies used attitude and positioning studies to assess what consumers wanted, in order to rework their packaging and/or messaging to talk about the things that mattered most. These companies used the voice of the customer to their advantage to increase share, without making any changes to the products themselves.
In short, keeping a pulse on changing needs allows companies to stay fresh, relevant, and delightful. Sometimes this yields only small changes to a product, service, process, or some other part of your company’s interaction with customers—or the broader world. Finding out what the important things are all boils down to listening!
Again, this may be about smaller improvements to current products and services or about coming up with the “next big idea.” However, many companies don’t have the resources to run their own innovation lab to create, test, and refine that next big idea. Even among those who do have this resource, it doesn’t always include a full idea-testing function or outside perspectives (across different stakeholder groups). Ideas often spring from what people inside the company feel is possible or needed, which is a good place to start. But this isn’t where you should stop. Ideas should be sought externally, as well. All ideas should then be sorted, so that only those with the most promise or the widest reach are developed and then refined.
By asking your stakeholders (or idea-centric creatives like Decision Analyst’s Imaginators®) for ideas, testing all ideas internally (such as with Big Qual), and refining until you get it right, you can delight customers and drive continued business success.
Does your company have the right tools to innovate, iterate, and stay current with your target market? Don’t leave your customers wondering, “What’s new, pussycat?”
About the Author
Sara Sutton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Senior Vice President of Medical, Health, & Wellness Research at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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