Despite the unprecedented challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see many new items entering the market in 2020. Consumer appetite for new products is strong, but what is relevant today may be different in some categories and relatively unchanged in others. To remain competitive, manufacturers need to adapt their innovation pipeline to meet the evolving wants and needs of their buyers. While consumer needs are changing rapidly, the key three drivers of successful innovation remain unchanged: (1) a good, relevant idea (2) brought to life with a strong product experience and (3) supported by a tailored activation strategy typically yield winning launches. Despite seeming more pronounced today, this dynamic is not new and it is not going away. The 2020 BASES Top 25 U.S. Breakthrough Innovations offer inspiration for the next wave of innovators.
Among this year’s BASES Top 25 Breakthrough Innovations, several attained success by discovering new opportunity spaces for existing brands—a challenging feat given nearly one in four launches actually shrinks their parent brand sales. A successfully executed extension can, however, drive considerable growth. One route towards unlocking growth is to expand your brand into a new usage occasion. It is important to differentiate the innovation from the existing product and cue the new occasion, while still maintaining core aspects of brand equity when doing this. Pop-Tarts® Bites nailed this delicate balancing act by bringing the well-known taste and texture of a Pop-Tart into a new, bite-sized format to spark more on-the-go consumption for the brand. With Gatorade Zero, it was an adjustment to the nutritionals that helped extend the brand into a new occasion; a zero sugar and <1g carb beverage lends itself towards lower intensity activity; whereas, parent Gatorade has adequate carbs, sugars and electrolytes to replenish and rehydrate during intense activity and energy expenditure.
The ‘homebody economy’ brought forth by COVID-19 also presents new usage occasions for which brands can innovate. Snacking and curated meal options have brought breakthrough innovation to the market in years past and opportunities abound. With more consumers working and learning from home, there is a heightened need for quick-prepare, easy clean-up, and variety-satisfying lunches and snacks.
Additionally, marketers have an opportunity to position their current products or innovations in a way that fits with the occasions of the new normal. For example, the homebody economy along with the proliferation of masks has negatively impacted the cosmetics industry. Still, some are jumping on the opportunities this creates. A simple Google search of makeup trends will show a huge uptick in enhancing the eyes – including heavier mascaras, fun eyeliners, and even unique eye make-up patterns. Opportunity always exists—the trick is to recognize it and innovate to the new need.
What we know for sure about innovation in 2020 is that launching new products is still critical to ensuring future growth. Manufacturers have clearly taken note of new opportunities. In fact, the number of new ideas that BASES is testing has been outpacing last year all summer. It has never been more important for brands and retailers to understand what is important to their consumers. Twenty-five of the innovations launched this year will be celebrated in future BASES Top 25 U.S. Breakthrough Innovations, and we can’t wait to tell the story of those launches and how they identified new opportunities and overcame the obstacles of 2020.