Small Steps to Big Change

18 November 10

The Power of Incremental Innovation

Disruptive innovation is exciting. Big breakthroughs like Netflix, Zipcar, and the iPad, generate big headlines. However, it’s important to recognize that many of the most profitable innovations aren’t disruptive at all.

A classic example of non-disruptive innovation is the addition of wheels to suitcases. Many thousands of years after both the suitcase and wheels were invented, the two products were combined in 1970 to make life easier for travelers. This small, incremental change made a big difference and gave suitcase companies a way to differentiate themselves. Incremental innovation is defined as improving, reconfiguring, or building upon a form or technology that already exists. By focusing on incremental innovation, companies can align existing offerings with current trends, expand on what they already do well, and continuously create value.

Many companies practice incremental innovation. Let’s take a look at a few recent examples that demonstrate the value of this approach:

  • Google Instant — Just when you thought the browsing experience couldn’t get any better, Google launches their new search feature Google Instant. This new predictive feature displays results as soon as you start typing. Google estimates that this will save users approximately 2-5 seconds per search. The feature has been so popular that it has inspired programmers to create their own versions, including YouTube instant and Yahoo’s new Rich Search Assist. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Future of Snacking

9 June 10

I recently led a trends panel at the largest candy and snack show in the country, the 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo, where more than 2,000 new confectionery and snack products were launched.  With so many options coming on the market, my panel of three trend experts – a CPG research guru, a futurist, and a ‘mommy-blogger’ – convened to discuss which types of products, trends, and other driving forces they think will drive ‘snacking’ in the near future.

With the hardship of having received a box filled with hundreds of new products at our offices to sample (read: devour) as part of our preparation, we were all filled with inspiration about the future. But it wasn’t the new products that shocked me, it was the provocative insights from the panel itself about what’s next for the audience of candy, snack, and CPG execs:

My candy will not be your candy: Large-scale trends from life sciences, like the mapping of the human genome, opens up the real possibility of targeting products to distinct consumer segments or even individuals based on science.  “Imagine individual snacks created based on your own DNA and mapped to your specific dietary or nutritional needs,” said Michelle Bowman, cofounder of AndSpace Consulting.

Nutrition Labeling – putting it out there: Mommy-blogger, Kim Moldofsky, founder of MomImpact.com, likes how companies such as MARS are being more transparent about their nutritional values right on the FRONT of their packaging. Read the rest of this entry »


Green Innovations

23 April 10

In honor of Earth Day, the futurethink team took some time to evaluate our own carbon footprints.  Using Global Footprint Network’s eco footprint calculator, we each answered a smattering of lifestyle-related questions and a few minutes later, ended up with an estimate of how many planet earths it would take to support our lifestyles (humbling enough, if everyone lived like me, it would take 5.7 earths to provide enough resources!). We found that simple actions such as eating less red meat can help us reduce our carbon footprint.  Beyond this, there are innovative companies that have created products to help us further reduce our footprint.  The following are some clever eco- innovations that we’ve spotted lately:

1. One easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to switch from disposable household products to reusable ones. Monte-Bianco, a Canadian company, has developed an innovative product that is not only eco-friendly, but also makes economic sense.  The Monte-Bianco clip offers you the familiarity of a standard toothbrush handle, with the additional flexibility of disposable brush heads that snap in and out. There are even two options for bristles – vegan friendly nylon and natural boar’s hair.  The brush heads, retailing at $5.50 for a set of three, are an inexpensive alternative to replacing your toothbrush every time. Read the rest of this entry »


Future 2049: It’s all about the package.

7 May 09

This is Part II of a series of predictions of the future in 40 years. Click here to view my previous prediction, Microwave World.

It’s all about the package.

Thanks to the proliferation of computers and online commerce across all economic classes, in the future we all use online shopping for 80% of our purchases. No more grocery stores (who needs them when there’s Fresh Direct or Peapod? People used to waste an hour in a grocery store? It’s one less stop in the ‘food chain’ if I get it right from a ‘distributor’ like Fresh Direct anyway right?).

With all of our food being delivered directly to our door, our first point of interaction with a brand for many is now AFTER the purchase decision has been made, not before.

What’s the implication of this? Marketers and brand experts now put almost all their emphasis on the packaging of an item – injecting all kinds of functions, incentives, and whiz-bangs into it – ensuring that your brand ‘interaction’ is good when you open the grocery box that arrives at your door. The most important part of branding is no longer about the ‘pre-purchase’ which used to be ‘at shelf’ in the store – this is due to the shift in consumer purchase habits; marketers now almost solely focus on the POST purchase and what they can do to make their package stand-out in the delivery box.


GE Caulk Singles

20 June 08

futurethink_ge-caulk-singles

Earlier this week, we wrote about Honda’s new FCX Clarity, which represents innovation on a very large scale. It’s redefining an industry, introducing a new business model through the leasing program, and paving the way for advanced research in energy production and consumption not just for vehicles, but for the home as well.

On the other side of the scale are equally valuable, smaller-scale, incremental innovations. These are the smaller improvements or enhancements to existing offerings that make life easier and better for customers. A great example of this is GE’s new Caulk Singles—single-use packets of caulk for homeowners. Now, I’m not much of a handyman myself, but I do know that in my garage back home are several tubes of unusable, hardened caulk. The stuff usually comes in the large tubes with hard-to-close nozzles, and most people end up wasting most of what they buy since caulk is often purchased for small-scale touch-ups and repairs. So here comes GE with a neat little solution in a 1.25 oz little packet. Read the rest of this entry »


Green(er) Works

23 January 08

Clorox is hard at work trying to up its green street cred. First, the company made a widely publicized acquisition of Burt’s Bees. Now, the company has launched a new line of eco-friendly cleaning products, which it has dubbed Green Works. The lineup is designed to compete with the likes of Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyer’s. The biggest difference between Green Works products and the competition is most notably the price. Green Works range in price from $2.99 to $3.99, making them far more affordable to the average consumer than competitive “green” products, which are often priced 2-3 times as high.

Clorox Green Works

Read the rest of this entry »


(S)Wash and (Re)Wear

21 December 07

We’re not yet sure what to make of Swash – it’s both very smart/convenient and a little troubling at the same time. Essentially, Swash is a line of “laundry” products by P&G that’s designed to “clean” clothing on-demand. The line has 5 products – a stain-remover, an all-purpose stain/odor/wrinkle reducer, a steaming/pressing kit, a lint remover, and an odor remover. P&G appears to be targeting the college-set with Swash, and touts the eco-friendliness of saving energy and water when “clothes go from your back to the floor and back again…”

It seems that the products are designed to mask and freshen as opposed to actually clean clothing, though that’s probably sufficient for most college-age customers. The products would also be great to for travel, when full-blown laundry facilities are hard to come by. Swash just goes to show you that no offering is ever fully mature – you can always do something to reinvent and reinvigorate your existing lineup. Learn more at Swash.

Swash Logo