Where Crowdsourcing Meets Product Development

I’m intrigued with what Quirky.com is doing to help bring new product concepts to market in a fast, efficient way.   As one of the few platforms to make product development truly social, Quirky truly is the intersection of crowdsourcing and product ideation.  The concept is simple:  any member can submit a product idea to Quirky.com, and the community of influencers can help shape, refine and complete the product.  The benefit is faster time to development with what could be a more commercially viable product.

Applying this model in CPG would likely be considered heresy among the ranks of most CPG market research teams.   The CPG product development model is steeped in the tradition of generating lots of ideas, prototyping a few concepts, testing those concepts among a pre-screened panel, conducting lots of focus group session and ultimately making a bet to commercialize (or not).  The crowdsourcing model turns over control and critical decision-making to the masses

The social product development model could help cut through the clutter much faster, and even help identify some whitespace product concepts that would otherwise have been tossed aside.  I see great application for entrepreneurs that can’t afford traditional product development processes.  I can even see some larger CPGs experimenting with platforms like Quirky, more from a learning perspective.  But ultimately it’s the real success stories that will help attract more attention to this newer, potentially better development model.

Red Bull Stratos Reminds us that Content is Still King

This is simply brilliant work by the Red Bull team.  If you haven’t heard about Red Bull Stratos, do yourself a favor and watch this 4-minute video trailer.  In a nutshell:

  • Felix Baumgartner will attempt to free fall then parachute from 23 miles above Earth
  • If successful, he will break several 50-year old records held by Colonel Joe Kittinger
  • This project is completely underwritten and produced by Red Bull

Yes – Red Bull has upped the ante in the content department with a pretty compelling story.  In fact, this trailer feels very much like what you’d expect to see as a high quality movie preview.  But what’s most amazing here is that Red Bull is producing this alone – no big corporate media halo, no online media partner to ensure distribution, no A-list Hollywood producer name to lean on.  It’s Red Bull’s gig and they’re going all-in.

The “safe” thing to do would have been to partner with some big media outlet, if for no other reason than to guarantee coverage and distribution.  But the story is so darn compelling, that Red Bull has the license to go direct.

I see this as the wave of the future — brands investing in world-class content that is intimately linked to their equity and serving it straight up to consumers.  Not all brands, but those like Red Bull, Porsche, Nintendo and others that have authentic products, a crystal clear positioning and a base of die-hard loyalists.

Kudos to the Red Bull team and to @kdoohan who leads digital marketing (Kevin is also a ConAgra Foods alum).  Should be fun to see this unfold.

Digital Coupons Fuel 2009 Redemption Record

Inmar recently published a press release highighting that 2009 saw year-over-year sequential growth in coupon redemption for the first time in 13 years.  This activity translates into 27% annual growth from 2008 with nearly 3.3 Billion coupons redeemed.  Pretty impressive statistics, but not at all suprising given the anemic global economy and cash-strapped consumers.

But the real news here is the contribution that digital coupons continue to deliver to this equation.  The numbers tell the story all too well:  Print coupon distribution via FSI accounted for 89% of total coupons in circulation and about half of redemptions…which leaves the balance to digital,  mobile and point-of-sale coupon delivery.  So roughly 10% of total coupon distribution (via digital and other means) drove roughly half of all redemptions. 

On a related note, just today Cellfire and Verizon announced a pretty cool distribution partnership.  It’s essentially a white label version of the Cellfire store, and will put digital coupons in front of a large swath of Verizon mobile users.

Given this very apparent shift to digital, it’s amazing that Valassis and other print media publishers are still able to command the insertion rates they do.  I wonder how long it will be before they dump their print FSI service and go all-in to digital delivery only.  Time will tell.

CPG Industry View of What’s Ahead for 2010

My friends over at CPGMatters published a roundup perspective of what’s important for industry trade and marketing strategists in the new year.  They were also kind enough to quote me several times, alongside folks from McKinsey, PWC, Adesso and Synectics Group.

Not surprisingly, the list of themes is fairly consistent with many of the issues I have written about over the past few quarters.  Some of the highlights include: pricing as a strategic lever, planning price and promotion strategies together, co-opetition with private label and maintaining a total category view when selling to retailers.

All in all, an on-target story that frames up some pretty important industry issues for 2010.  You can access the full story here.

Accolades for DemandTec Courtesy of AMR Research

I try to separate the brandcentric blog material from my job at DemandTec, but given the subject matter the lines often blur.  AMR Research recently recognized DemandTec’s market leadership position in account planning and collaborative deal management for CPG manufacturers.  This report (note: AMR client access only) was published earlier this month by Lora Cecere and Steve Steutermann at AMR — two industry analysts that have themselves held brand and sales management roles for some of the leading CPG companies.

This recognition was the result of three solid years of market momentum by DemandTec combined with two strategy sessions and countless briefing calls I held with Lora and Steve.  Rewarding to know that a lot of hard work across the company has ultimately paid off.

As a related side note, it was recently announced that AMR Research has been acquired by Gartner.  The transaction just closed today.  I see this move as a net positive for the industry and look forward to working with the expanded Gartner / AMR team in the weeks and months ahead.

Recap of 2009…and Look Forward to 2010

Hard to believe, but it’s been a year plus since I launched the brandcentric blog.  Many lessons learned about the art and science of blogging (mostly positive), and still a lot more to discover.

On the content front, this has been a fantastic opportunity to refine my focus in this bold, new era of CPG marketing.  A few of the more meaningful themes from the past year include:

  • The expanding share-of-wallet that digital media has claimed from traditional media vehicles.  CPG was slow to adopt, but quick to catch up to (and potentially surpass) other industries.
  • The coming-of-age of social media and marketing for CPG brands.  Word-of-mouth makes a lot of sense for considered purchases, even in the world of fast-moving consumer goods.
  • Leveraging applied math and modeling techniques to achieve superior merchandising strategies.  The data is available, the science is mature and business-user applications are available through a browser.
  • The relentless pursuit of developing, nurturing and monetizing direct-to-consumer relationships.  Alice.com was unexpected, but is exciting to watch.

As I look forward to 2010, a few early focus areas bubble to the top:

  • Shopper centricity.   This will be huge across several fronts, including in-store marketing, trade planning, and broader merchandising strategic planning.   Retailers are ready to unleash the data and shopper segmentation, and manufacturers need to step up to the plate.  Collaborative planning has made a comeback.
  • Pricing.  Commodity and ingredient cost volatility is expected to rear its ugly head once again.  The focus on promoted shelf price is more important than ever, especially when considering issues like gap to private label and the incredibly elusive consumer.  Expect manufacturers to funnel more marketing dollars to price as a strategic marketing lever.
  • Digital integration.  Will this be the year that digital media and marketing shifts from a “center of excellence” service to a brand-driven strategic capability?  For some brands not quite yet, but for others absolutely.

There are many more themes that are percolating.  I’d love to hear what’s on your mind as you look forward to the coming year.

CPG Digital Strategy – How Times Have Changed

As an associate brand manager at ConAgra foods in late 1998, I remember pondering how digital media would eventually impact our overall consumer marketing mix.  With that thought, I did a quick landscape analysis taking note of media opportunities (Yahoo! and Excite at the time), plus the proliferation of direct-to-consumer grocers, including NetGrocer and Webvan.

While the needed scale was probably a few years out from that point (my boss at the time felt that our consumer wasn’t online and might never be online), the market has clearly evolved.  What a telling sign to see ConAgra Foods make a fairly significant  investment in digital media with Yahoo! as outlined in today’s press release.

Here’s a little sneak peek into what ConAgra will accomplish with Yahoo! — a fairly immersive consumer experience overall.