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Andy Wardlaw, Chief Ideas Officer
06 Aug, 2020 | 3 minute read
Consumer habits are being broken like never before, but new ones are being created. So, now is not the time to put product development on the back-burner.
This pandemic's legacy will be a re-calibration of people’s needs and behaviors, presenting opportunities for those prepared to go after them.
As Forbes columnist and author of ‘The Innovation Biome’ Kumar Mehta remarks – ‘never waste a down-turn’! There is compelling evidence that people switch brands significantly more after a ‘life event’, and it’s fair to suggest that virtually all of us are experiencing just that!
For players in fast moving consumer goods categories, there are several shifts that we need to prepare for. Here are just three:
After years of striving towards more naturally set products, manufacturers must now ramp up efforts to fortify foods that shore up people’s physical and mental health. Research has shown that young people already favour fortification more and are leading the charge towards products that can help with sleep, anxiety and mental focus. Recent global data released by MMR shows that these areas now have similar traction to immunity and gut health. But with most of the action happening on the fringes, now is the time for major manufacturers to innovate and drive this new era in functional foods, being mindful that people are likely to be thinking of their health beyond the breakfast table a lot more in future.
Trailblazer: RE: NOURISH ‘Calm’ Soup brings in passionflower to underline its positioning. Other ingredients such as L-theanine, ashwagandha and magnesium are likely to surge in next 5 years as people prioritise mental well-being.
Staying home is the new going out. This was an observation before COVID. Only now, it really is. So far, manufacturers have been prioritising larger pack formats and ‘Direct to Consumer’ operations online. What must follow is innovation that responds to people’s need for experiences at a time when out of home is either denied or much less attractive. Personal care and beauty sectors clearly have an opportunity to step up and offer home spa days. Zoom ready make up kits perhaps?
Trailblazer: Walgreen Boots Tea Tree & Peppermint Moisturising Foot Socks.
For low priced pampering, this product claims to stimulate the senses and deeply soothe and soften dry and rough feet. Products delivering simple rituals and create a sense of ‘carved out’ time to oneself could thrive in the new normal.
As people’s habits change, and their emotional and functional need states shift, brands must follow the lead taken by the consumer. Now is not the time to go dark on innovation. In fact, now is an unexpected chance to steal a march on competitors by reacting to the new consumer landscape that Unilever clearly understands.
And here’s a thought, for your innovation to be remembered, consider developing products that offer ‘sensory peaks’ - fleeting moments that cut through, like the crack of Magnum’s chocolate coating as you bite into it. Such events will help embed your new product into people’s memory structures – helping out with on-going adoption rates.
In changed circumstances, brands have a chance to stay relevant and show empathy with consumers. Whilst advertising can suggest this, it is innovation that shows that you really mean it.
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