Chris Adrien, Vice President, Product Development, Nielsen BASES
Rob Mooth, Vice President, Client Consulting, Nielsen BASES
SUMMARY: Much has changed in the world of innovation and successfully launching new products has become more challenging. For many marketers, current metrics and action standards to gauge in-market acceptance are not quite enough to guarantee success today. Nielsen BASES has evaluated 500+ recent in-market cases globally to understand what it takes to win in an ever-changing marketplace—and has developed the next generation success models that address all facets of the consumer adoption process.
It has become increasingly challenging to bring new products to market. Over the past decade, significant changes have occurred—consumers are more sophisticated, the value equation is shifting, retailers are more powerful and the communication models have been revolutionized. Additionally, product development time is now shorter, competition is fiercer than ever, and there is continued fragmentation at the shelf. Despite these changes, many new product development processes and metrics have not been adapted.
Game changing metrics
It is no secret that most new products fall short of expectations for a variety of reasons. The ones that achieve in-market success do three fundamental tasks really well:
- Master the Trial Build Chain: Successful new products must have strong consumer appeal and be supported through quality distribution and awareness.
- Ensure Strong Ongoing Volume: Successful new products deliver on their consumer promise, with strong performance and on-going marketing support.
- Maximize Franchise Incrementality: Successful new products attract new triers or generate new usage occasions in order to minimize cannibalization of established franchises.
While these fundamentals have not changed, the media and retail landscape has, and the current metrics and action standards used in the past are no longer enough to guarantee success today. To gain a fresh understanding for new product dynamics in the context of current marketplace conditions, Nielsen BASES analyzed 1,900+ recent product launches globally and examined how each initiative did in the marketplace against its goals. The net result was a compilation of 500+ cases of in-market launches that were used to develop the next generation success models, providing a strategic framework for how to win in today’s marketplace.
There are many ways to define success. From achieving volume goals and hitting strategic targets to averting risks and surviving in the marketplace, performance can be measured in a number of ways. While current pre-market performance metrics typically compare a product’s overall performance relative to the competition, the next generation success models analyze the entire adoption process by isolating areas of weakness or readiness for every key measure of success. In this way, you move beyond just measuring how a product compares relative to the competition by overlaying whether this comparison is likely to be meaningful to ultimate success. This adds important new power to competitive comparisons and allows you to focus on issues that will truly make a difference in the outcome.
Five new secrets of innovation
By applying new key measures of success and action standards, BASES in-market test cases demonstrate the potential to improve your success rate. The way to bring stronger products to market is by following five new rules of the road.
1. What worked yesterday might not be good enough for tomorrow.
Make new product development decisions based on the most up-to-date, multifaceted models of in-market success. Relying on the performance standards from the past without adjusting for current market conditions is likely to result in blind spots that can get in the way of success. The current models will help you anticipate issues more effectively and bring more sound propositions to market.
2. Consumer adoption may be complex, but the steps of the process are clear.
Measure and optimize all that matters to success by covering the entire consumer adoption process. The current key measures of success—such as purchase intent, units per purchase and frequency of purchase—continue to be critically important and are key to accurate estimations of volume potential. But there are a host of new factors—such as breaking through clutter, generating buzz and offering true innovation—that also need to be considered.
The consumer adoption process can be broken down into five key factors on which winning products excel:
- Being salient—the ability to stand out. Winning new products catch consumers’ attention and/or offer a distinct consumer benefit.
- Successfully communicating—get the message out. The message needs to be understandable, focused and translatable into memorable ad copy.
- Generating consumer attraction—generate interest. Provide a unique solution to a substantial need/desire, be credible and be free of barriers.
- Converting attraction at the point of purchase—find it in the right store, on the right shelf and at an acceptable cost.
- Delivering an enduring product—achieve lasting consumer adoption with strong repurchase strength.
For each factor, traditional and new performance measures are evaluated to pinpoint and isolate areas of strength and weakness.
3. What it takes to be ready for a successful launch varies at each step in the adoption process.
How does your product perform relative to the competition? Because each step of the adoption process—salience, communication, attraction, point of purchase and endurance—may have different ranges of in-market readiness, each evaluative measure should be benchmarked separately using a four-tier scale: Strength, Ready, Not Ready and Weakness. In doing so, performance is linked to success for every key measure.
Put another way, not all measures are created equal. For some measures, being “average” may be good enough for in-market readiness and improvements may have limited returns on the potential for success. For other measures, it may be more important to perform better than competition, as this could represent an area of real competitive advantage. Moving beyond a simple competitive comparison and adapting launch criteria with this understanding makes for a more robust decision-making platform.
4. Success is about doing most everything well enough, not about really excelling at one facet.
In-market success is not about doing one thing really well. Rather, it is about doing everything you need to do—covering every touch-point in the consumer adoption process—sufficiently. The initiative that does everything enough, but isn’t a star at any one thing is likely to be a success. A single fatal flaw can derail even the otherwise strongest of initiatives—think “weakest link”. Many marketers fall into a trap of focusing only on the one or two areas that a new product does really well, but ignoring areas that represent barriers to success.
5. Measure what matters, when it matters.
Set action standards for every new product development stage based on the relevant consumer touch-points. And the earlier you start in the new product development process, the better. Even at the earliest stages, you can understand an idea’s ability to stand out, catch attention, and meet a relevant need. As the idea progresses into a more developed concept and branding, features, and pricing are built in, more elements of the communication and point of purchase dynamics can be folded in. The key is to build on a consistent framework that puts the relevant touch-points into the context of in-market readiness along the way.
Putting the plan into practice
For every stage in the new product development process, set action standards based on readiness for in-market success. For the final test of the concept and product prior to launch, look for “green (ready) or higher” for every touch-point. Seek competitive advantage in the touch-points that are specific to the initiative’s strategy. Only allow initiatives with “yellow” (not-ready) touch-points to move ahead to the next phase if improvement seems likely and monitor these issues closely as the launch proceeds.