If you’re a marketer trying to make it in a hypercompetitive world, it may feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand different directions. Everyone says that data is important, but how do you apply it? Some people swear by email marketing campaigns. Others are convinced direct mail works. Still others insist on machine learning.
So what’s the solution? What’s the string that holds it all together?
For some, it’s lean innovation: using a startup mindset to innovate larger corporations and teams.
People pay lip service to innovation, but the truth is, innovation is risky. It means trying something that no one else has tried before, with no previous data as plot points. But it can work for you if you try to approach innovation methodically.
A Case Study: Charmin’s Forever Roll
It seemed so obvious that you almost miss it, but P&G noticed that people were willing to use industrial-sized rolls of toilet paper in their houses so they could change them less often. Fewer changes means fewer trips to the grocery store or less time ordering grocery stores online. The Charmin development team seized on this observation, creating ads for a Freedom Roll in social media ads. After some tweaking and customer feedback, the roll has been renamed the Forever Roll, and it is set to be sold in stores.
Lean innovation is a concept that more and more large brands are adopting to cut down costs and to ensure preliminary success. Here are some steps a marketer can use to have a similar result.
Pretend you’re an amateur anthropologist or sociologist. Observing people, especially in large groups, can give you some keen insights into behaviors, and the rationale behind those decisions. If you’re in a large city, take public transportation. If not, sit in a coffee shop or go to the mall. If you want large amounts of people to consume your brand and be aware of it, you have to remember that these customers are not data points. They’re people, with jobs and families and hobbies, just like you. How do you insert your brand into the overarching narrative of their lives without forcing it?
You don’t have to have a fully fleshed-out theory. A question will do. In the case of P&G, certain people noticed the following: “Hm. People are willing to lug giant rolls of toilet paper into their houses. Why is that?” It can start as a gut feeling, a hunch, or just curiosity. This is your most unstable link in the chain of events. Theories are often wrong, need to be changed, or don’t have enough information. If you’re stumped, go back to the observe stage.
Once you have your theory and feel ready, now you can launch your mini campaign. Start small. You’re not investing in a full-fledged campaign. Not yet. You’re testing your potential customer base, not yet. You’re mostly doing this for feedback.
So you had the best idea in the world, and flawless execution. And customers don’t like it. That’s okay. You’ve just saved your company the stress and headache of a campaign that was never going to work. But what if they do like it? Awesome! You and your team can make plans to scale. Remember, customer feedback is invaluable. If the data and the feedback isn’t bringing you closer to the customer, it’s no good.
It can seem a little overwhelming at first to try to understand what works and what doesn’t in a sea of solutions that all promise results. But remember: you’re in a relationship with your customer. What is good for them will ultimately be good for you.