How to innovate when something's already great
Have you ever worn a pair of headphones to ward off chatty people on the train or at work?
Have you ever indulged in ice cream to make yourself feel better after a horrible day?
Most marketers try to improve sales of products by innovating in one, linear direction. "Let's give the headphones more bass" they'd say, or "let's invent yet another new ice cream flavour". And while the traditional specs and features of products we know and love are important, they're not going to have a massive impact on sales and you can't really call it innovation, that's more evolution.
So how do you innovate with products that are already great?
One way, as pointed out by Harvard Business School professor Clay Christiansen, is to find out what job people are hiring your product to do. This is very different to thinking about what the product is for.
Yes, we all know that people buy shampoo to clean their hair and they need a car to take them from A to B, but that's not actually what drives them to choose one brand over another. When you start really asking "why", you start getting interesting results.
Snacks are driven by occasion. You buy different snacks for your kids’ lunch boxes than you do when you invite friends around for drinks.
Luxury car choice is driven by attitude to life. Rolls Royces are generally bought by a different personality to Porsches.
Whatever drives choice in the paint category, Farrow and Ball made the first move and made it really easy to decide by branding their colours by use, like reading-room-red.
Once you know what job people hire your product to do, it will change the way you innovate.
The above is a teaser from an upcoming course on How to be a killer innovator (coming Jan/early Feb).