Recently, a client asked me what it took to get innovation through to activation. Insight-driven idea – check. Consumer validation – check. Alignment with strategic objectives – check. But many times, great ideas just languish on the shelf, never making it out of the concept phase. If innovation happens, and no one listens, is it truly innovation?
The name of the game is synergies. It takes a village to raise an idea – marketing, operations, sales, legal, finance, plus a route to market that sets the idea up for success, and a strategy that everyone can understand. When I helped launch the Coca-Cola Fridge Pack in 2003, all the right elements were in place:
– A strong consumer insight. We’d done a packaging A&U (Attitude and Usage) study that led us to a number of insights, including the fact that consumers wanted an easier way to store and use soft drink packages in the refrigerator. They couldn’t tell us how to solve the problem, but they could tell us what they wanted.
– A convergence of business needs. The Coca-Cola Company had just invested heavily in packaging innovation insights, and was looking for a return on that work. There was a bottler who had extra production capacity and who was open to investing. And there was a supplier who had ideas in the pipeline that met the consumer objective.
– An irresistible story. Once upon a time, there was a package that fit more easily in the fridge, generated huge consumer interest, and was proven to increase sales while improving consumer perception of the brand. I literally walked the halls of Coca-Cola, carrying a sample of the package and a deck of talking points about the positive impact to the business, getting people excited about the idea, and collecting team members along the way.
– A senior evangelist. We had the support and ear of the president of Coca-Cola North America, as well as the head of the bottling organization. We were making a game changing move, and having senior teams on board reinforced our goals and helped rally the idea within the organization. Everyone knew it was a priority, not just a project.
– A compelling solution with few compromises. We had a structural design that worked well, both as a strategic solution and as an operationally sound solve. Consumers overwhelmingly told us that they preferred the new design of the Fridge Pack over the existing square box, and in-market results backed up this information. Best of all, it worked the way it was supposed to work.
– A partnership of marketing, manufacturing and suppliers. We had an engaged, highly cross-functional team, from the earliest stages of the project and from the top down, that was willing to provide resources, support and help break down barriers to success.
– A great story for retailers. Who isn’t looking for new news? And Coke had the advantage of strong retailer partnerships. The launch of the Fridge Pack required complete overnight store resets in the early markets. We were able to build a story around increases in sales, margin and consumer interest that enabled the bottler to sell the package in (taking on new slotting fees), and convinced retailers to agree to the resets. Without that partnership at the retailer level, the whole project would have come to a grinding halt.
– A scalable small market test. We were able to launch in one market in a repeatable way, testing communications, packaging structure, consumer preference and perception, giving us guidance for how to execute a larger launch. Test results within the initial markets gave Coca-Cola the confidence to move forward and lead the charge in launching nationally.
– Realistic objectives that helped us eat the elephant. As a team, we knew that launching the Fridge Pack with a brand as large as Coke, in a system that produces millions of packages a year, was a daunting task. By working with small markets at the outset, setting attainable but challenging goals for the launches, and then measuring and reporting regularly on results, we were able to demonstrate success, account for corrections and build a compelling story for a broader launch.
There’s no shortage of great ideas. But as this proves, ideas need someone with them in the forest in order to be heard.