In 1917, Nikola Tesla, one of history’s great innovators, was awarded the Edison Medal. During his acceptance speech, he revealed the secret to his success: “a new method of materializing inventive concepts and ideas.” By constructing a new idea in his mind and considering calculated iterations before generating a final product, he was able to avoid losing steam and preserve the integrity of the original idea.
Today, thanks to the evolution of technology, there’s no need to use our minds to run these projections. Machine learning and simulators can help manufacturers in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry achieve what Tesla discovered more than 100 years ago. By applying this process of predictive research, successful innovations can be realized without the sacrifice of quality and time.
These are precisely the elements at stake when a product or marketing plan is launched before being truly ready, later demanding course correction. Yet in the current FMCG landscape, where manufacturers are pressured to be more agile in order to achieve growth, quality is sacrificed for speed in the name of being “agile.” So while beta testing in market—when a product is launched in a live setting and only then improved upon and iterated, based on initial launch feedback—is one of several common approaches responding to the call to be more agile, it presents risks.
In previous research, we concluded that it’s the combination of being faster and smarter that ultimately improves the chances of success. Agile market research should help you prototype your ideas in a safe environment and enable you to identify the best possible version of each prototype before you invest in more expensive execution steps. And the concept of predictive research as an agility enabler can increase your chances of success by 3x.
DON’T THINK MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCTS: THINK MINIMUM SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS
The temptation to run to market with a new product is almost too great to overcome. Crossing the finish line to get on the shelf and in the hands of today’s digitally enabled consumer may feel like a rush of victory. Not to mention it can remove the pressure from the top to launch more products quickly, with an ever decreasing budget. So what could go wrong?
Through our research, we’ve identified two primary risks that come with launching an initiative using a trial-and-error or “see what sticks,” iterate-in-market approach. Firstly, this method can mistakenly weed out potential winners prematurely and, secondly, increase the likelihood of placing a stake in potential losers or distractors.
After reviewing distribution data across more than 3,000 recent launches in several markets, we found it takes an innovation an average of six months before it shows its true destiny as either a grower or a decliner. Before that, a product’s chance of success is relatively indistinguishable without the right benchmark. So those manufacturers that rush a product to market and then jump in to “rescue” it (or iterate) before the sixth month mark can’t be sure that the product was truly in need of help.
In fact, by going back to the drawing board six months in, they’re adding to the timeline. Realistically, in the time it takes to launch, correct and relaunch a product, it’s likely been a full nine months of waiting, added cost and lost opportunity. For many, the most likely outcome is even more dire: the product has been slated for delisting after irking a preferred retailer. Over time, this pattern could incur irreversible damage to a crucial relationship.