How do you label innovation?

Interview – Jeffrey Kaufman – Avery Dennison

How do you label innovation?I had the opportunity a while ago to interview Jeffrey Kaufman, Group Manager (Consumer Insights) at Avery Dennison about the interplay between consumer insights and innovation. Avery Dennison is a recognized industry leader that develops innovative identification and decorative solutions for businesses and consumers worldwide. Every day. Everywhere. They are probably most well-known for making labels.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. What role does the voice of the customer play at Avery Dennison?

In the Office and Consumer Products Division of Avery Dennison, the voice of the consumer plays both a strategic and tactical role. Strategic: It impacts where we decide to innovate – for example we will employ market structure research to help us evaluate opportunities based on how the consumer perceives the marketplace. We will also conduct various attitudinal studies, to understand the product attributes that are critical to maintain and leverage. Tactically, we employ several methodologies to help optimize product development and improvement, advertising, packaging, and merchandising (retail and online). Overall, the voice of the consumer is a key input into most decisions that impact the consumer.

2. How does Avery Dennison gather and utilize consumer insight in its innovation process?

Consumer insight is critical in identifying where we innovate. For example, we execute a consumer immersion process to get to know our target consumer better and understand unmet needs and pain points associated with existing products. As we ideate new product ideas, we often include consumers in the process. Also, as we develop concepts – we often expose them to consumers to gauge initial reaction, and identify areas of optimization – e.g., improving on benefits and features. As products are developed, they must pass specific criteria during home use tests.

3. Is consumer input only utilized at the fuzzy front end of your product development process?

Consumer input occurs at all phases. It plays a key role during the “fuzzy front end” to help us identify where to play, but it also plays a crucial role refining and prioritizing key benefits and features during concept development, and insight plays a key role as we develop products. E.g., products must meet certain hurdles in how they perform, etc.

4. Why are consumer insights important to innovation?

Consumer Insights are critical to understanding where the opportunities exist to innovate in – e.g., identifying white space. Also, insights plays a key role at mitigating risk in launching new products or renovated existing products. They are key in identifying the relevance of new products and also insuring against launching something that does not meet consumers’ expectations.

5. What is the most important culture change for organizations to make in order to support innovation?

Patience and Risk. Innovation takes time to get it right – identifying unmet needs and products that satisfy them take time – time for analysis, product testing, optimization, etc. It also takes time, since most new products will fail – stakeholders should expect several rounds of concept and product testing before launching a successful innovation. It is also important for organizations to embrace risk and accept that most launched products do fail.

6. What are some of the biggest barriers to innovation that you’ve seen in organizations?

Tight timelines and revenue expectations are barriers. Short timelines often restrict the number of consumer check-ins – for example a home use test often takes 4-6 weeks, and management is often anxious to launch products before this critical test. Also – concepts often move into the development phase before they are optimized. Expected revenue is often a barrier too – in many circumstances, I’ve seen an incongruity between marketing budgets and revenue expectations. Putting a new product on the shelf or online does not guarantee meeting sales targets, telling consumers about the product – its benefits, where to find it, etc – is a vital expense.

7. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

I am biased – a key one would be embracing the voice of the consumer throughout an innovation process. Also, basic marketing knowledge to make the right decisions to develop awareness of new products or innovation on existing products, ensuring innovation is relevant to consumers, and providing an understanding on how to position innovations in the marketplace – e.g., understand the competitive landscape.

8. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

Help students become less risk-averse – teach that mistakes and failures in the marketplace provide a wealth of lessons-learned. HR systems might need to change along with this — for example, one shouldn’t lose their job or standing within an organization if an idea fails in-market.

Clearworks - Customers, Connections, Clarity

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

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