Seduce Don’t Persuade: NPD

For decades now, brands have approached innovation by thinking about “unmet needs”. They’ve hunted for “white space” in a product range just waiting to be filled by eager consumers. But as many have pointed out, people aren’t great at articulating their needs. The gap between these supposed needs and people’s ability to explain them has spawned a whole industry of consultants. But it remains just as difficult to launch a successful new product.

But what if we approached the problem in a new way? What if the reason people can’t articulate “unmet needs” is because ‘needs’ is a deeply flawed way to think about how people make decisions?

Needs suggests a transaction: if a new product meets a need of mine, I’ll buy it. It’s a rational and ultimately persuasion-based way of approaching the choices your customers make.

But we know from our work in advertising that seduction trumps persuasion – the more people feel, the more people buy. And we know from our work on Fluent Innovation that it’s Fluency – making something new feel easy and quick to understand – that makes new launches successful.

So instead of persuading a customer to buy something new because it meets their needs, we think you’ll have better results seducing a customer into buying something new because it feels good and has fluency. When it comes to new brands and products, it’s Feeling and Fluency that feed Fame.

In this way of thinking, spotting opportunities isn’t based on filling unmet needs. It’s about uncovering the automatic associations around your brand, your competitors’ brands and competing categories.

Here’s an example of what we mean. Say you’re a chocolate brand looking to develop a new product. You’re considering cereal bars, protein bars, and cake bars. System1’s analysis of the associations of your brand and category tells you that chocolate in general is associated with ‘unhealthy’ but also ‘gives you energy’. Your specific brand, though, has particularly strong associations with ‘indulgence’ and when people react emotionally to you, they mention what a treat you are.

So while energy-giving protein bars might sound right for the category today, indulgent cake bars are a territory you specifically can play in better. And when you check System1’s long-term category forecast, you see that people feel ‘cake’ is a growth area, but ‘biscuits’ and ‘cereal bars’ do more poorly.

The conclusion is clear: avoid cereal bars, make a move into cake, and if you invest in protein bars, make sure you have an angle that fits your brand rather than just a me-too move.

We call this probing of the market for seductive opportunities Product Landscaping, and it’s something new we’re offering at System1 alongside our other Innovation systems. It combines emotional response, time pressure questions and new ways of analysing categories to find the warm space where brands can grow, not the white space where they too often flounder.

Written by Colin Moyer, Client Director, System1

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