Message In A Bottle
In the past, consumer goods companies launched product after product with predictable success. New products were backed by meticulous research, consumer insights and a blaze of publicity. However, modern marketers are realizing there is no formula for a successful product story.
The 4Ps of marketing are getting upended by e-Commerce and buffeted by demographic and economic forces. The holy grail of consumer loyalty is now part of mythical folklore. Consumers now seek products that are utilitarian as well as convenient.
Perhaps, the brightest ideas in consumer goods now emanate from outliers who blend uncommon wisdom about products with a nuanced consumer sensibility. Let us distill lessons from challengers and find out what makes consumers gravitate towards these compelling product ideas.
Service over brand
The premium that consumers are willing to pay for is service, not the brand. A service-first mindset is the result of how consumers are being served by airlines, retailers and other service industries. A compelling service mantra is enough for a product to differentiate itself from peers. Take Hot Coffee Club, for example, who offers six variants of freshly grounded coffee by mail every month across the United States. Consumer's experience with the brand begin with a tasting box, following which customers can select their personalized mix of coffee. Then there is Sanitary Owl in the United Kingdom, an online sanitary subscription service that mails sanitary kits to customers who choose a mix of products that meets their personal needs.
Consumers are becoming more and more health conscious as lifestyle ailments surge. They also have a lot of information at their fingertips, which is driving them eat fresh, local and organic food. This has opened a market for holistic health and wellness products. In India, Patanjali offers packaged food, cosmetics and home care products by tapping into the ancient Ayurvedic system of natural healing. Natura Brazil offers cosmetics using ingredients from the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest. The company adopts an advisor-customer direct selling model that serves as a hybrid social network.
The digital generation seeks to control interaction as well as experience with products. As connectivity becomes ubiquitous, millennials are turning to products and services that add value to their lifestyle. Beam Technologies offers Beam Brush, a smartphone-connected toothbrush, as part of a holistic dental subscription service that includes dental insurance. Data from the brush is transmitted to an app that monitors dental hygiene and determines dental insurance premiums based on the principle of preventive care. Ralph Lauren's Polo Tech smart shirt has sensors that record the user's movement and beams data to an app via Bluetooth. The user can monitor steps taken, calories burned, and heart and breathing rate.
Several startups are pushing the boundaries of innovation in consumer goods. The success of progressive companies will depend on how innovative ideas serve consumer needs. While the genie is out of the bottle, the messages that emerge from the shifts in consumer goods serve as guiding lights for the industry.