Dedication to Innovation

Dedication to InnovationHarley-Davidson Perfume— the delicate scent of motor oil and pavement. Fish-flavored water for Fluffy? Wake up with a ready-made carton of pre-brewed Maxwell House coffee. Introducing a new line of microwavable dinners from Colgate! Hungry for breakfast instead?

Try Kellogg’s cereal and no-need-to-refrigerate milk with a spoon included. Then, you can ride off into the sunset on your Smith & Wesson mountain bike. Refresh with Frito-Lay Lemonade or Life Savers Soda. A little sore from an afternoon of mountain bike riding? Swallow a couple of Ben-Gay asprin and wash up with Clairol’s “Touch of Yogurt” shampoo.

Does it all sound like a world gone mad? Pre-brewed coffee? Yogurt shampoo? Colgate dinners? In the dark recesses of your mind, can you almost see an old commercial or box on a shelf triggering a vague memory? These were all real products brought to consumers by some of the most powerful brands around. Why don’t we all have a case of chicken-liver water for Mittens? It’s because, according to AOL Daily Finance, these represent some from the 25 greatest product flops of all time.

The list goes on with recent failures of AT&T’s HTC Status with its dedicated Facebook button (yikes!); the Netflix’s Qwikster debacle; and the flap with the Fiat 500. The vast majority of these products were created by companies with enviable innovations and long-term success in their respective markets. Innovation, it seems, is a tricky thing to get right.

And, what would be the cost-savings to these companies had they not pushed these products through? Did management at Colgate think frozen dinners from a dental hygiene company would be an appealing addition to the brand? Are all product companies doomed to at least one catastrophic public failure that costs millions to launch? All great companies have some flops but, increasingly, there are methodologies, tools and processes for reducing the fail-rates.

Risk & Reward

While executives at these companies involved in the decision-making process would like to forget these mishaps, it’s important to remember that at the heart of success is incredible risk.

Many experts contend that, during economic downturns, innovation is the single most important condition for transforming the crisis into an opportunity – it’s also a time when many companies are highly vulnerable and the risk is greater. Companies have come from nowhere with startling advancements – like Trader Joe’s in 1958, MTV in 1981 and Apple’s iPod in 2001 – all during risky market conditions. Surely all of these innovators had their share of naysayers.

Experts in the field of product development and innovation study the similarities and processes of these and other examples to find the conditions that have created success. Experts have researched a myriad of factors from the personality of the executives to the corporate culture and the way ideas are managed through to commercialization. With global competition, the hyper-speed of innovation, we do not live in a time of stagnation. One year a product defies imagination. A couple of years later, our Baby Boomer moms are mastering social media.

With the pace quickening and billions of people transforming into new consumers, companies strive to be responsive. They must also carefully strategize and understand each investment they make as they reach out to these markets.

So how can product developers more effectively gauge their opportunity?


New Best Practices

Success can and is being advanced by the right solutions. Taking a new product to market cannot be arbitrarily shaped based on hunches and pieces of information for an optimal outcome. Ideally, product companies’ responsiveness must be shaped according to data and a keen understanding of what is working and what isn’t.

Recent analyst reports indicate that product-driven companies are increasingly considering portfolio management enterprise tools to garner insight into utilization and to appropriately align product investments with corporate goals. The primary functions of interest to product companies are the ability to assist in gaining visibility into the product pipeline, resource capacity planning, project and resource management, and to gain a clear picture of the total cost of development.

While the big flops make headlines, the truth is most companies are in an ongoing process of new iterations of their products and processes. How these efforts are measured and evaluated are central to making the right call before cash, time, and other resources are invested.

Innovation experts, like those presenting at the virtual and free-to-attend PIPELINE 2012,, advocate integrating various approaches including culture, strong leadership, market research, and vision to get the pay-off. Speakers include:

• Jeff Dyer, professor of strategy, Brigham Young University, and author of the award-winning book, The Innovator’s DNA.

• Damian Killen, managing director and founder, thrive, and co-founder of Branddecode™, an organization that consults on the personality of brands.

• Jeff DeGraff, world-renowned professor at the University of Michigan, speaker and author of Innovation You.

• Monica Alderson, project manager director of Consumer Solutions, Hallmark Cards.

• Mona Maher, vice president of marketing, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

Share one of your project blunders and include the lessons and techniques you’ve learned to prevent project failure. Tell your story by leaving a comment below.

Image credit: blogofbad

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Linda RoachLinda Roach is VP of Marketing for Planview . Her skills in product management and corporate marketing led to the launch of Planview Enterprise, a successful repositioning from a single-product to a multiple- product line company. In prior management roles at Pervasive Software, VTEL Corporation and Kodak she led go-to-market initiatives for new products, line expansions and new market segments. A Chemical Engineer, she participates in ExecutiveEducation programs at Wharton School and other universities.

Linda Roach




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No Comments

  1. Eric Antariksa - Marketing Student on May 8, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Great article. Yes, for every iPad, we encounter countless product flops.

    I think someone, someday, should write about the book entitled : “The History of Great Products”.

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