Discovering Opportunities for Innovation; Motivation & Inspiration

In order to gain insight into the innovative world, my group was blessed with the ability to interview Selina Perez, a top brand manager at Proctor & Gamble. Selina has held various positions within the world-renowned company, serving as the Global Innovation Manager for P&G’s oral brands before beginning her current position as the North American Marketing Leader for beauty products. She truly understands what it takes to manage, innovate, and market brands on both a small and large scale. P&G has provided her valuable lessons on what it takes to innovate, and these were obvious during our conversation with her.

Selina highlighted that the key to discovering innovative opportunities is to truly understand the consumer, which is a strategy Anthony illustrated in The Little Black Book of Innovation (2008). As alluded to in the work, P&G believes in living with the customer, and this was the main point Selina made. In her experience, customers will tell her what she wants to hear, but often times it is dramatically different than what he/she actually does. Selina gave the example that if she were to survey women regarding their use of Olay body wash, the participants would state it was the only body wash they used. Yet when Selina went to their homes, she would find Olay was just one product among many. This new information changed the way she needed to address the issue.

Throughout the conversation, it became clear that Selina was very keen on gathering data through all senses (Costa & Kallick, 2008). In living with the consumer, not only was she listening, but also she was observing reactions and finding frustrations. This forced her to be attentive to the consumer and connect with his/her emotions and point of view, which parallels the “listen with understanding and empathy” habit of mind (Costa & Kallick, 2008). Furthermore, she tended to draw upon previous knowledge and experience in those moments to possibly find new solutions to the dilemma (Costa & Kallick, 2008).

Selina felt that while this was the most difficult part, it was also the most rewarding. For her, “creating, imagining, and innovating” only mattered because she was able to impact people’s lives (Costa & Kallick, 2008). It is through her dedication and innovation that she is able to make people feel confident and simplify their day. This intrinsic motivation is what gives her the energy to strive for innovation (Thrash et al, 2016).

Aside from these strategies, Selina presented two other means to discover and test innovation that are often used in her world and may be beneficial to us. One of the easiest ways to find and validate innovation is to observe trends and research case studies. By practicing this strategy, one can identify possible areas for innovation and discover if others have tested the idea. This is advantageous as it allows one to see if the innovation was previously successful and how it could be improved. Along the same lines is “Test & Learn”, where the innovator gathers a small group of people and shares an innovation with them. This method gives one the chance to hear what consumers do and do not like without the innovator having to risk the product in a full-scale launch. Based on our strategy of appealing to the customer and non-customers, Selina thought that this specific approach could be beneficial to us, especially because college students are readily available.

When asked about her specific innovations, Selina again attributed every innovative success she had to simply observing, asking, and building a relationship with the consumer. In her eyes, that bond allowed her to see what was truly bothering him/her (Couros, 2018; Anthony, 2012). Here, she began questioning what exactly that unmet need was and experimenting with solutions (Costa & Kallick, 2008). Yet what was unique was that Selina assumed there could be two ways to solve the issue: product innovation and commercial innovation. Product innovation was described as the typical innovation style; namely, the creation of a new product. On the other hand, commercial innovation was taking an existing product and simply talking about it in a new manner, so as to change the consumer’s view of the product. Selina mentioned how Bounty does this regularly with their paper towels. In January, they may advertise its absorbance power, but come April they have shifted their focus to its durability. For her, this is the type of innovation that has led to her success and is what has kept P&G on top because they are able to consistently appeal to the consumer without having to invest in new ventures.

Furthermore, Selina highlighted that innovation, whether it is product or commercial, still can take a long time to come to fruition. One cannot rush it (Costa & Kallick, 2008). To set oneself up for long-term success, it is necessary to have an action plan (Graham-Leviss, 2016). At P&G, they address this issue with an innovation pipeline, or a set of innovations in the works. If one product fails, they can roll out another one in a short period of time. In the meantime, the company can evaluate exactly why the product failed and revamp it for a future launch. Nonetheless, innovation is about taking managed risks and knowing when to time them properly.

When discussing our solutions for Triadex, we mentioned our idea of focusing on the consumer’s consumer, specifically college students. College students are not wealthy individuals, but they spend what money they do have on food. If the mailers contained in-store redeemable coupons, students would be less likely to throw away the advertisement and more likely to redeem it. Selina loved this idea, but mentioned that students also enjoy expensive items and restaurants but cannot afford them. If the redeemable mailers contained coupons that made these establishments more accessible to students, these locations would develop a new customer base, thus increasing profits. The companies could then take the cards and recycle them through a Triadex sponsored program. This in house recycling concept is similar to the bottle and can recycle programs found in many states where consumers can redeem their empty items for cash.

Another area for opportunity is marketing on college campuses, since students do not check their mailboxes. By simply bringing mailers to campus, Triadex would be cutting down on emissions, as only one truck would be coming to campus versus hundreds of mail trucks to different complexes. On the campuses, Triadex could set up a tent with its “Triadex Cares” slogan where it would hand out flyers/coupons to Triadex’s customer’s businesses, thus increasing the customers’ sales. This concept is already done at Bull Market for various apartment complexes, student organizations, etc. because college students enjoy ease of access.

The former solution also gives Triadex another opportunity, and that is to market themselves and their efforts. Triadex could advertise their business and green efforts to college students in an effort to gain support. If they can become known as an environmentally friendly brand, students are more likely to back their efforts, which may force Triadex’s customers to purchase the green option. This is also a great opportunity for the company to survey college students and discover what they value. Understanding the market will allow them to tailor their efforts and marketing toward what their customer’s customers desire. This simple concept is done at Bull Market, any farmer’s market, and P&G under the name “Test & Learn”.

Moreover as individuals grow older, they tend to become brand loyal, and the same is true for college students. In addition, the Tampa Bay area strongly supports local businesses. If Triadex were to survey customers about what local brands they are loyal to, Triadex could approach those companies with a green mailer advertising solution. Chances are these businesses’ names are only being spread by word of mouth, so adding a mailer to their marketing efforts would increase business exponentially. To ensure the green option is bought, Triadex should only present that one option. This one-option approach is currently a strategy the business is ruminating on, so this could serve as a means to test it. Many mortgage and real estate professionals use this strategy to increase business and disseminate their names.

In our phone conversation, Triadex stated that not many people know who they are, and this is an area they wish to improve. I believe Triadex can use this lack of awareness to their advantage. Many well-known companies face the issue of having to completely rebrand themselves in the eyes of the consumer when trying to go green. This is not the case for Triadex. Triadex can begin advertising itself as an environmentally friendly company on college campuses, their website, and in mailers. Thus, the first information many people have of the company is that they are a green business. A company that has established themselves as such is sure to attract new environmentally orientated customers. Toyota is a fine example of this concept. When Toyota launched the Prius and their hybrid vehicles, they attracted new, loyal, and green buyers. In 2011, over 85% of hybrids purchased in the United States were Toyotas, and 50% were Priuses (http://evworld.com/journal.cfm?jid=237). If Triadex can apply this same strategy, they could make a new name for themselves.

After brainstorming opportunities and reminiscing on my conversation with Selina, I believe that discovering innovative opportunities requires that one observe and listen with understanding and empathy (Dyer et all, 2009; Costa & Kallick, 2008). Thankfully, these are two qualities that I exude. These are essential because, as Selina illustrated, there is so much information and opportunity for innovation in the world. For me, simply taking the time to watch and learn is how I have found my opportunities. I started a blog last semester, but before I did, I spent months reading other blogs in an attempt to find areas of improvement. I asked myself why I did or did not connect to a post or message. In that lengthy period of time, I found one common thing: a lack of heart. There were many blogs that simply had a disconnect between the author and reader. So when I began posting, I ensured that I wrote with passion and openness. One can learn a lot about me from my posts because I am very vulnerable to my readers, and they are grateful for it. I think that following those habits of mind and innovative qualities of true innovators is what has made my blog a success.

Innovation also requires questioning and persistence (Dyer et all, 2009; Costa & Kallick, 2008). Like I previously mentioned, I had to question the way everyone else was writing, question myself, and question the process. That was the easy part. Like every mentor in class has alluded to, following through with your idea is the hard aspect. It’s often said that the biggest barrier to success is yourself, which holds true. For me, persisting through the difficult times was crucial in pursuing my opportunity because it likely would not have come to fruition had I not done so.

In the end, I’ve come to define success as accomplishing the goals I set for myself and changing lives in the process. It sounds cliché, but I think it is one of the best drives to have because when I impact others on a deep level I develop a bond with them unlike any other. That bond is what gives me the willpower to persist. On the other hand, failure is two fold. Failure is not reaching my goals and giving up. The former is obvious, but the latter is an action that really brings me down. I see giving up as not only disappointing myself, but also as letting others down. I firmly believe people can benefit from my success, so when I quit I hurt them.

Taking this into consideration, I find that I respond to success and failure similarly. I collect myself, look at what I can learn, and pursue the next item. For me, there’s always a learning experience no matter if I failed or succeeded, as I can learn what I did well or what I did not do well. The crucial part is taking that information and applying it to the next situation. It’s easy to get caught up in failure and success, so easy in fact that many people miss out on future innovations. I’ve found this approach beneficial to me, and I plan to continue using it in the future.

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