my turn


When It Comes To Innovation, Simplicity Rocks

Innovation is the lifeblood of consumer product companies. It has pushed design to higher levels and resulted in making life better, more convenient, safer; it continually adds value to products. Without it, brands max out the sales potential of existing products. They risk becoming stale and passé over time.

Unless innovative products are constantly in the pipeline, brands run the risk of being upstaged by competitors, as well.

However, there are times when the push for constant innovation can lead consumer product companies astray. Some well-planned, well-executed ideas have been a bust in spite of, or rather because of the fact they represented some kind of innovation.

Companies always seem to be tweaking even great-selling products. How many packages have consumers seen touting products as "new and improved"? How many times have consumers been perplexed at claims any innovation has even taken place? Conversely, how many times do consumers encounter such a drastically different product, they became disappointed and refuse to purchase it again?



Sometimes the best thing companies can do is leave their flagship products alone. Remember when Coca Cola launched its "New Coke," thinking it would retire its original formula? Coke reintroduced its signature product as "Classic Coke" in a hurry after that debacle.

Starbucks staggering expansion in recent years has really hurt the brand. The decision to cut down on the preparation time - and romance --- involved in creating its divine caffeinated concoctions led to a sharp decline in volume. Consumers responded decisively. They didn't mind paying more as long as the baristas' careful custom crafting added to their experience. Without it, why bother to go to Starbucks?

Innovations in packaging can also create consumer disconnects. When Tropicana recently contemporized its OJ packaging, the redesign disregarded its heritage brand assets. The straw- punctured orange conveying 100 % real orange juice disappeared. Even worse: Consumers couldn't find their favorite Tropicana variety. This was an excessive case of minimalism. After spending millions, Tropicana announced it would reinstate its heritage packaging - scrapping the new that had been in distribution for a scant month or two.

There are heritage products that consumers have always liked just as they are. No innovation required. Smart companies ought to consider that, especially if their product has become a basic commodity to legions of consumers.

So how about innovating messaging instead? When a product is straight-forward, pure and simple, why not tout it? Why not tap into the prevailing consumer mood and current marketplace climate to reinforce this: consumers can continue to trust the simple goodness of products that have always brought them enjoyment.

The hottest trend in marketing is all about promoting "simplicity" and "honesty" in a highly transparent manner on packaging and in advertising. In a complex and complicated world, this concept taps into a very deep desire among consumers.

Kudos to Post Shredded Wheat's brand managers, who get this. Their product is, and always has been, natural and simple. It's a heritage product, made from 100% whole grain wheat. It has been for 117 years. A new marketing campaign orchestrated by Ogilvy, featuring the tagline: "We Put the 'No' in Innovation" is simply brilliant.

Face it: consumers are hungry for simplicity, and back-to-basics goodness. Post is tapping into this with its new messaging. New messaging is the right kind of innovation these times call for. It might be better than dusting off nostalgic old taglines and ad spots to re-air and many CPG companies are giving in to the temptation to do this, of late. While consumers are yearning for simpler, more secure times, new messaging points to the future, not the past which none of us can return to.

Marketers: stop and think. Is product innovation what's really needed right now? Will innovation of your heritage product and brand lead to desired, projected results or will it lead to consumer disconnects? If you already have a great product and packaging the consumer continues to connect with, then maybe what you need to innovate is your messaging.

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