Staging an Innovation Party

Staging an Innovation PartyHave you ever woken up in a cold sweat in the middle night from a nightmare focused on you throwing a big party that nobody comes to? Or, in real life, have you ever thrown a big launch party for a new product or service, made a lot of noise with advertising, marketing and public relations – only to have the sales returns be anemic at best?

According to a Linton, Matysiak & Wilkes study from 1997 titled Marketing, Witchcraft or Science, the success rate for new product introductions in the food industry is only between 20 and 30 percent. But, there is a key insight inside that data not to be ignored. The results highlight the power of market research and strategic marketing:

  • The bottom 20,000 U.S. food companies in the study combined for an 11.6 percent success rate.
  • The top 20 U.S. companies in the study enjoy a 76 percent success rate for new product introductions.

Sure, the 1997 data is coming from a single industry that many of you may not be in, but other data I’ve seen from the Product Development Management Association (PDMA) and other sources are similar and reinforce the importance of market research and strategic marketing. Worded another way, success in the market is often:

  • Highly correlated with testing products, services and communications.
  • AND from maintaining a focus on refining insights identified in earlier development phases.

If we know this, why do so many organizations not take similar approaches internally earlier on in the product or service development process?

The Importance of Staging Your Idea

In the U.S., home staging is big business. Why does home staging help homeowners sell their homes faster and for more money? Because it reduces the chances that prospective buyers will imprint reactions on the home that are hard to predict and often unrelated to the home itself. It also allows the homeowners and agents to better brand the home and create consistent and strategic marketing communications. In the same way, if you don’t consciously stage your idea and its communications, you run all of these same risks. But staging your idea doesn’t go far enough. You must throw an innovation party.

Throwing an Innovation Party

Now you might be thinking to yourself, isn’t staging your idea the same thing as prototyping a product or service? And, how is throwing an innovation party different? Well, prototyping your product or service is like making the cake or the punch, but you can’t stop there. You must create events to proudly display and discuss your innovative ideas. This will make you put just as much effort into thinking about how you are going to get everyone excited to come and have a good time at your innovation party once they get there. This means carefully crafting the communications around your idea to clearly illustrate the new value you’re creating for people, and using this opportunity to excite the people inside the organization about your idea in the same way that you hope to excite consumers or businesses when it’s ready to go to market.

I chose to include an image of the unreleased iCADE because it started out as an April Fools’ Day joke and is about to become a shipping product. The staging of the product and its communications definitely were key to keeping it from being exiled to the land of misfit toys. And, the iPad itself provides a perfect example of how communications turned the predominant sentiment in the marketplace from jeers to cheers. We all probably have the feet up iPad billboard advertisements burned into the back of our retinas by now, but does anyone remember Apple’s launch tagline for the iPad?

Well, here it is in all of its awfulness:

“Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”

How could you not root against a new gadget described this way?

The truth you must remember is that most ideas really are only partial ideas and the better job that you can do to strategically market and test your idea internally, the more likely that well-intentioned individuals inside your organization will help you identify where your product or service and/or the communication of its new value – are lacking. In a sense, every innovation party is a chance to connect new people to the idea that can help make it even better and more complete, and an opportunity to identify better ways to evangelize your idea internally and externally.

Your goal in throwing innovation parties is the same as market research and the work of marketing strategists – to refine the product or service and its communications before taking the effort to the next stage of the process (or to the next campaign). And what happens if you choose not to throw an innovation party? Well, the change in your expected outcome is probably about the same as the difference in outcomes between those Top 20 companies and those Bottom 20,000 companies that we talked about earlier. Which group do you want to be a part of?

Time to get your innovation groove on, and stoke that innovation bonfire for a hot party!

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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.

Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a Design Thinking, Innovation and Transformation Consultant, a popular innovation speaker and workshop leader, and helps companies use Human-Centered Change™ to beat the 70% change failure rate. He is the author of Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.




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