I was speaking to a team of kid marketers for one of the biggest brands in America about the process of innovation–in particular, the communication that takes place between those in engineering (scientists, product engineers, product designers, etc.) and marketers during the process of the development of new innovations.
The toy industry is very trend driven, with new toys coming out at least every six months (if not more). Kids always want to know “what’s hot” and “what’s new” in toys. Manufacturers want to deliver on that desire for freshness and newness because it’s good for business. However, this puts a strain on those who must constantly innovate. Some have product design specialists, and some have technology experts. Some have trend watch teams. Each toy manufacturer finds unique ways to bring innovation to the marketplace.
In my work, I’ve had lots of opportunities to work with product designers, engineers and scientists in many different fields. The process of innovation is a combination of looking at consumer wants & consumer desires and figuring out how to meet those desires, while at the same time being alert to new technologies that might deliver new benefits to the consumer. Especially at Texaco, and Scotts Miracle Gro, I had regular contact with chemists and scientists developing state-of-the-art technologies to bring innovation to the automotive industry and to America’s gardens. Scientists were always a vital part of our team.
Sometimes the communication was from the consumer back to the scientists through the marketers. We would research what kinds of problems consumers had, as well as what kind of desires they had– what was on their wish list. We would take this information back to the scientists to say, “Do you have a technology that could solve that problem?” Other times, we would work with the scientists, discussing new technologies, and then, based on our understanding of consumers, determine the best applications for those new technologies. Once we had a few ideas, we would take that back to the consumer for testing and ultimately, new product launch.
Notice that in each case, the consumer must be a part of the conversation. If you work with scientists on emerging technologies and how to leverage those emerging technologies, congratulations! It’s fun work, isn’t it? Just make sure you don’t forget the consumer. No matter what cool technologies you come up with, it must be relevant to a consumer. Consumer must see what’s in it for them. So don’t forget to include the consumer in the conversation!