The Emotion In Breakthrough Innovation

Making consumers' feelings and emotions central to the way we inspire innovation can revolutionize how brands get to breakthrough ideas for new products and services.



If you look at many breakthrough brand innovations in recent decades -- Apple, Google, Bath & Body Works, Bear Naked, Frederick Fekkai -- just to mention a few, it wasn't an advantage in technology that enabled these brands to win against a slew of competitors, it was the way that the products made their consumers feel.

As established brands continue to push for new growth through innovation, they can learn so much from this upfront emphasis on consumer emotions. Its just one innovation tool in the toolkit for inspiring and branding new products and services, but we've seen it applied again and again to help brands successfully grow.

And there's never been a more compelling time to make sure that Emotional Led Innovation is a competitive edge for your organization; as more and more brands compete in mature categories, it's often harder to get to pure technical breakthrough, and so the only compelling way to innovate is to create unique feelings for your target consumer.



Also, the ability to create and research emotions by prototyping the product experience in words and rich visuals is rapidly accelerating, which enables innovation teams to build and refine rich emotional response, in real-time with the consumer.

Here are some simple things you can do to hone your organization's skills in emotional innovation:

  • Understand the range of emotions that different consumers can experience and what drives them. For example, in a recent beverage breakthrough, the brand put new emphasis on the way the product made their moods change as opposed to the sensations and, therefore, the feelings in the mouth. In a different innovation space they put emphasis on the way the body feels. Some consumers internalize their relationships with the product and brand, and they like to see images of how the brand makes them feel; other consumers externalize their emotions and the payoff of using the product is best expressed in how it helps them relate to other people.
  • Use this understanding of emotions to create an inspiring map of the emotional opportunity spaces in your market. You need to know the range of options you have for driving emotion. In a recent innovation breakthrough in beauty, we created a spectrum of emotions from "whole women" mind and body emotions to emotions that relate to specific skin needs e.g. acne.
  • Emotions on their own are fluff ... you must make sure they are relevant for what your products can actually do in the physical, literal world. E.g., Heavenly Bed by Western Hotels is real emotional metaphor in the category, but it relates totally to a need for good nights sleep.
  • Brand it! The trick to branding emotional innovation is creating rich experiences and feelings for the consumer. We suggest you start with an understanding of the emotional insight and then springboard into new literal and metaphoric language that the brand can own. Slow Churned Ice Cream is a great example. Not only does it create a visual image of how it's made, but it inspires a true emotional response. It also makes a strong emotional connection with all types of consumers, from those who think visually to those who think verbally.
  • Finally ... enjoy it. Innovation is not a slog. It's amazing to see great emotional response from consumers when you get it right ... don't just look to 'delight your consumer', that's passé ... look to get a real emotional connection.
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