Driving Innovation for Consumer Brands August 10, 2016 by Jamie Beckland Driving innovation for consumer brands was the main topic of conversation recently at the annual conference of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. As an industry in transition – with slowing growth across the sector, and huge upheaval in consumer shopping preferences – the industry leadership was clear that brands need new and creative ways to connect with consumers and solve their problems. The solution comes from surprising places. First, we must look for consumer insights in often overlooked channels. That means brands need feedback earlier and more frequently, and they need to target more niche audiences to develop product lines that serve new needs. Building these insights means mining data in new ways, including identifying emerging behavior patterns and new interests based on the psychographics and need-states of the consumer. In reviewing recent brand successes, we can see how these practices yield better results. Swiffer’s initial reviews from consumers were terrible, because consumers were used to mopping their floors in a big production on Saturday morning. The one lone positive comment came from someone who used the product in a different way – they did a quick tidy-up on Tuesday evening. Swiffer was a product for “good enough” in-between cleanings. This insight created a new billion dollar category. Second, we must separate true innovation from the operating machine that turns predictable revenue for consumer goods manufacturers. The operating machine should include all of the product line extensions, reformulations, re-packaging, etc. These must fit the operational model and be able to turn predictable revenue. And the team that is dedicated to this effort should be separate from the more game-changing innovation efforts. However, both sides of the innovation aisle must leverage new consumer insights. It is one more reason that consumer identity needs to be managed as a distinct capability within CPGs and food manufacturers. Understanding the variety of consumer needs, and how to activate solutions for those needs in real-time, will separate the leaders from the laggards in the category. See more examples of how CPGs are using consumer identity.