Anthropology and Innovation

17 Aug

In world-class innovation, our goal is to invent a solution that will create value for customers (external or internal). Most new product development departments share that goal: to create a new product that customers will purchase.

Martin Lindstrom, the #1 branding consultant in the world according to many sources, analyzed American consumers’ preferences for canned pasta sauces and discovered that there is no single pasta sauce that will satisfy all consumers. Instead, he identified three groups of sauce buyers. Each group valued a different quality of the sauce, such as chunkiness or stickiness.

Lindstrom reached his conclusion by combining anthropological research with sophisticated data analysis. The pasta sauce brand that engaged him used his findings to launch new varieties for the three consumer groups. The result was a huge gain in market share and profitability.

Innovators can learn much from Lindstrom. For example:

  • Challenge your own wisdom. Your customers most likely understand your product differently from the way you understand it.
  • Look into your customers’ heads and hearts. Use ethnographic and empathetic research to learn what drives and motivates them.
  • Experiment prolifically and rigorously. Only well-designed, controlled experiments will yield reliable data upon which to base managerial decisions.
  • “The value of innovation is in the insight, not the idea.” I teach this consistently. Those who apply it, benefit consistently.

Lindstrom has documented his work in seven books. I plan to study his techniques, and I recommend that you do the same.

Related reading: A Not So Elementary Exploration of Brand Insight

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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


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