innovation and the marketing concept


The marketing concept states that successful businesses satisfy the wants, needs and desires of consumers.

Many marketers translate this as follows:

  1. Identify a group of attractive consumers;
  2. Conduct some research to identify their unmet wants;
  3. Deliver something that satisfies those wants.*

The critical thing is that this is a reactive process: it delivers incremental change to a reality we already know.

But this approach takes us closer and closer to the perfect mousetrap; sooner or later, the improvements become so small that people see no reason to pay more for them.

It’s only when something really changes the game that people are willing to pay a greater margin.

The marketing process outlined above doesn’t inspire such revolutionary ideas.

As we saw yesterday, research rarely approves real innovation; change makes people feel uncomfortable, and the easiest way for them to deal with that discomfort is to reject the change outright.

Truly innovative companies know this.

As Sony co-founder Akio Morita once said:

We don’t ask consumers what they want; they don’t know.

Instead we apply our brain power to what they need, and will want, and make sure we’re there, ready.

Sony proved this in spectacular fashion: the original Walkman actually failed pre-testing, yet went on to become one of the most important innovations of our age.

So why do so many companies continue with the broken approach?

The sad reality is that it’s got very little to do with satisfying consumer needs.

Instead, it’s more about satisfying internal needs; those of other functions within the organisation who demand proof that marketing investments will deliver returns.

This is where the concept of return on risk comes into play: the greater the innovation, the greater the risk that consumers will reject it, but also, the greater the potential rewards.

So the real challenge that marketers face is convincing their colleagues and shareholders why innovations will succeed.

Perhaps the next frontier for advertising is internal persuasion.

Who will lead that revolution?


(*note: sadly, stage 2 normally reveals a need that is already partially met by existing brands, and stage 3 then translates into advertising that shows how an existing brand satisfies that need a little better. But that’s another issue.)

Walkman image from here


1 Response to “innovation and the marketing concept”

  1. 1 multisourcing « eskimon Trackback on December 9, 2009 at 18:59

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