A number of years ago, marketing managers for Jell-O were looking for a way to expand volume for the brand’s gelatin. The product was one of the most profitable food products ever, but volume growth was weak.
The marketers decided to follow gelatin purchasers into their kitchens to see what they used the product for. Undoubtedly, they expected to see moms and kids making bowls of gelatin like their own moms once made for them.
Not so in some kitchens. Here, inventive moms put highly concentrated gelatin into cookie cutter molds, and children played with this new form of the well-known food before eating it.
This investigation was the beginning of how the Jell-O Jigglers promotion was ultimately developed. These delightful edible toys made gelatin making and eating more attractive for moms and kids, and helped the company by encouraging a much higher use of their gelatin.
Companies that have active help lines and online bulletin boards often get similar ideas from those sources. Many businesses also hold customer councils of their largest and most advanced users to find ideas to improve what they offer. Seek out nontraditional users to find the most innovative opportunities.
Like the Jell-O example, some of the best ideas come from trailing beneficiaries and customers around to see what they do with the product and what other problems they have.
A patient was recently sent to the hospital for new types of diagnostic tests. Settling down into a multimillion dollar piece of equipment, the patient trustingly followed the technician’s orders to lie face down with a pillow for comfort. Within 20 minutes, the pain in the patient’s neck became very unpleasant. Within 30 minutes, the patient was losing feeling in the feet and legs. Within 40 minutes, the patient asked to stop the test. Painfully holding on with gritted teeth for another 2 minutes, the test was completed.
The patient said that enough was enough. The technician said that another 30 minutes was going to be needed starting in an hour. The patient obligingly agreed to come back as long as the test could be taken lying face up.
Following that agreement, the patient came back and was told to hold a certain pose while lying face up. Within 10 minutes, new forms of pain came in waves. And so on. Face up was even worse!
If a design engineer had ever watched a patient suffer with this expensive form of a medieval torture device, the engineer would soon have figured out that no patient in his or her right mind would ever agree to take that test again . . . and would tell everyone to avoid that test like a hungry lion.
Did any engineer ever try out this awful device? I doubt it.
Anyone who had ever seen a massage table would know that great comfort can be provided for the face-down prone position by putting in a cushioned holder that lets one’s face descend below table level while one’s arms are either prone next to the body or hang downward.
Such a solution would have provided blessed relief for patients and probably boosted sales for the manufacturer by hundreds of millions of dollars. Nonprofit organizations can be equally insensitive.
In a church in downtown Boston there’s a homeless shelter that is open during the days for women only. That rule is in place because many of these women have been abused by men and don’t feel safe where men can come and go.
While visiting this shelter, it soon became obvious that many women were reluctant to come in the shelter because there were men lurking on the street near the entrance.
If the shelter’s organizers had simply provided an imposing female escort to help women enter and leave the shelter, many more women would have spent the day inside on that blustery December day.
Here are questions designed to help you uncover adjustment opportunities for your offering.
What makes your offering
-frightening to some people?
-painful or uncomfortable?
-a needless expense for the user?
Act on what you find, and you can quickly expand the sales or use of your offerings.
Copyright 2007 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved