Highly skilled engineers and scientists develop brilliant products all the time which are designed to solve a multitude of user needs. The familiar innovation methodology often starts with the user, defines what’s needed, then connects this with what’s possible. But sometimes, great technologies are developed to solve a broad range of needs. That makes it tricky for the marketeer to choose what to talk about (since people won’t care about much of the functionality and will switch off if bombarded with an elaborate laundry list of benefits). 

Clove Sports Shoe

Reading through Fast Company’s Innovation By Design Awards 2020, it is inspiring to see how future problems are being solved, from the global pandemic to the climate crisis and beyond. If we take an example of a great product from these awards, we quickly see how it could promise to do many things. The Clove sports shoe has been designed for healthcare workers to keep feet protected and fresh with the following functionality:

  • Slip on and off easily
  • ClarinoTM fabric:
    • Fluid repellent (so can withstand harsh sanitising cleansing agents)
    • Stain resistant
    • Odour resistant
  • Designed by shoe designer to be fashionable
  • Machine washable insoles from OrtholiteTM
  • Multi-layer support for all day comfort
  • Grippy outsoles
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So how do we extract all that is great within a product like this to maximise the return on investment from R&D? And at the same time, how do we find single-minded compelling stories and messages that will resonate most with target consumers? 

At Untapped, we have a 5 step process to harness all the potential from great products. Here’s a broad overview of how it works:

  1. Unearth the category experience journey of your target consumers using Human Insight tools.

This process starts with identifying who potential target consumers could be. While for the Clove shoe example, it’s clear their core target are health care workers spending long hours on their feet with a need for effective sanitisation. However, there could be other targets for a fashion forward, robust sports shoe. After defining the list of primary and secondary targets, deep ‘ethno’ diaries amongst these targets interacting with the category and the product in question will identify behaviours and needs along with pain points throughout the consumer journey. It’s important to look closely at which of the pain points the product addresses and the language people use when describing these benefits.

2. Mine the assets of the product using Insight Audit and connect these with pain points in the consumer journey.

In today’s world, people are increasingly wanting to know all about the provenance of ingredients and products and how they are made, to build their trust in manufacturers’ ethics and align themselves with brand values. Marketeers also need to spend time in the lab with engineers, formulators and designers, crystallising how and why great products perform as they do. Interesting connections can then be strengthened between what target users love about the product and how and why the product performs.

3. Project future culture and trends in your category using Future Forecasting tools.

Users can only tell you about their world today and what they think they’d like tomorrow, but especially as the events of 2020 have shown, tomorrow is hard for many of us to envision. Cultural and semiotic experts are highly skilled at studying category evolution and tracking the trajectory of trends. By looking at emerging movements and neighbouring categories, we can identify i) needs that will become increasingly relevantand ii) future focused language and visuals

Taking another glance at the recent Innovation By Design Awards, it is easy to identify the innovators who have an eye on the future, e.g. New Story’s 3D printed homes for low income families in Central and South America (see image below) or Unocup, a foldable coffee cup that eliminates the need for a plastic lid.

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4. Use story thinking to explain how the product will make someone’s life better.

The beauty of this process is that it connects consumer, product and trend insights and tells a single minded story that is about the human, not the product. Each story focuses on a target consumer pain point and fixes it. But you can have different chapters for different stakeholders in the product, such as the retailer, professional or an end user. A multi-faceted product can give birth to many stories which can be sequenced to provide a rich innovation pipeline across one or more brands.

5. Develop powerful claims and demos to bring the product to life.

Each story comes with a toolbox to bring the riches of the product to life in market, which includes claims and demos. It is tempting to claim many things but this is where message confusion will creep in – the single-minded story is there to keep us true. 

So, what makes a good claim? 

  • It must be simple and concise (ideally no more than 5 words)
  • It must address a pain point in a believable, distinctive way
  • To be persuasive it should speak to the head (logical) and heart (hit an emotional need). 

It’s not easy, but a strong visual can help. Going back to the Clove Healthcare shoe, “Keeps feet protected and fresh” works well.

The demo is then a visual demonstration of what the product can do or how it works. The same rules apply as for claims, and in addition, a demo should be based on kitchen logic relevant to the target consumer. The award winning Unocup innovators have produced an early “As easy as 1, 2, 3” demo to show how the cup folds to create a lid effectively.

Armed with a portfolio of compelling stories connecting consumer needs to product strengths and a toolbox with strong claims and demos, you’ll be able to harness the potential of a great product and reap the rewards in market.

At Untapped, we regularly take clients across sectors through this type of process. We also explore a wide range of topics within the innovation world that we bring to you via blogs and our newsletters. 

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