For close to a decade, Nielsen has given an annual award for the most successful consumer packaged goods products. According to the company’s data, every two minutes in the U.S. in 2018, a new product was launched, netting over 30,000 new products a year: a mix of totally new brands, sub-brands and line or variety extensions. Nielsen’s research shows brand loyalty declining, with 32% of consumers in 2018 claiming they are less loyal than 5 years ago. Lower loyalty suggests that consumers are ready for new products more than ever. However, keeping customers is getting more and more difficult for brands, making success with innovation even more important.
The 6 categories in Nielsen’s 2019 award have criteria that include different Year 1 and Year 2 sales levels, and incrementality to the parent brand and category. Criteria for winning in the Superstar category, for the most differentiated and incremental launches, include Year 1 sales of over $50,000,000, and Year 2’s sales that are at least 90% of Year 1’s. Year 2 sales that are at least 90% of Year 1 demonstrate the product is more than a fad and has staying power. It should be noted that only 30% of new products achieve 90% or more of Year 1 sales in Year 2. Criteria for each category are depicted below.
In order for a brand to succeed, it must have an appealing concept or idea, a strong product that lives up to the concept description, and a great marketing program in terms of creativity that breaks through the clutter and gets noticed and meaningful spending levels that generate trial, awareness and repeat purchase. According to Jenny Frazier, SVP of Nielsen BASES, “the Nielsen BASES Top 25 Breakthrough Innovation List celebrates the absolute best of what marketers do to drive growth and show us all what is possible when we pair a great idea with a great product and great activation.”
Of the new items launched each year, approximately 21% are totally new brands (White Claw Hard Seltzer), 9% are new sub-brands of existing brands (Baby Dove Soap), and 70% are variety extensions of existing brands, like new sizes, flavors, colors, or scents. Not unexpectedly, sub-brands and variety extensions can be more cannibalistic/less incremental to the parent brand. Totally new brands tend to be more costly to launch because there is no prior brand knowledge or confidence on the part of the consumer, so higher marketing budgets are usually required.
Three of the new products intrigued me the most because they represented different innovation strategies and objectives: White Claw Hard Seltzer, Harry’s and Baby Dove.
White Claw created a new sub-category within the alcoholic beverage market. It’s a hard seltzer that’s positioned as “A Seltzer Made Pure”. Hybrid products that bridge major categories is an important type of innovation for brands. White Claw allows consumers to indulge in a healthy way that’s neither very caloric (100 calories per can) or intoxicating (only 5% alcohol) and it’s gluten free. The original flavors are more typical of a soda or flavored seltzer that include: Black Cherry, Lime and Mango. Variety packs with different flavors encourage consumers to try the range.
The ad campaign is visually distinctive: all black & white with the exception of the color band for the flavor and the gold top rim of the can. The visual references are of ocean, water and refreshment. White Claw is targeted to mass channels and is merchandised with craft beers, ciders and flavored malt beverages. Sampling has been a key part of the marketing strategy. I’ve always been a huge believer that sampling is the most important marketing tactic for brands that are great and demonstrably superior to competitors. White Claw year over year growth has been extremely impressive.
Harry’s men’s care brand, the successful e-commerce product line, added physical retail distribution in 2016 through an exclusive partnership with Target. Distribution followed in Wal-Mart and a broad swath of other retailers. With an omni-channel strategy, Harry’s wants consumers to be able to find their products wherever they are and want to shop. The challenge for Harry’s was to deliver the 1-on-1 relationship customers experienced on their site, at retail. In a recent visit to the Target store in downtown Brooklyn, New York, Harry’s had both an attractive end cap and a distinctive, in-aisle section that reinforces Harry’s everyday good value, quality shaving that nourishes the skin, and the end benefit of “a happy face”.
Harry’s in-store retail growth has been very strong, with Year 2 sales up 280% vs. Year 1. In speaking with Harry’s co-founder and CEO Jeff Raider, keys to success included a focus on the customer first. Harry’s marketing team checks in with consumers around the country once per quarter to see how their wants and needs are changing and being met. Harry’s also strives to stay as true to their mission as possible by creating a similar experience online and offline, even as they add new products and enter related product categories.
Baby Dove represents another smart target audience addition to a brand franchise that has continued to expand its audience with an umbrella positioning that balances an overarching cohesiveness with meaningful and different sub-brand equities and imagery.
I’ve been teaching the Dove Harvard case to business school students for years, and every time I reread it and look at the packaging across the line, I’m impressed with how well, seamlessly and logically the brand has extended its products across personal care sectors and target audiences, including men and now babies. Baby Dove’s tagline focuses on the insightful, reassuring and emotional idea that “there are no perfect moms, just real ones”. The line is a great fit with the Dove franchise’s overarching campaign for real beauty. Both make people feel more comfortable with their value as well-intending, normal human beings, and puts less pressure on them to achieve superhuman and unattainable perfection. Additionally, the key franchise benefits of moisturizing and taking care of oneself, extend well to the baby care category.
Lessons for CMO’s To Create Breakthrough and Sustaining New Products
1) Brands need to constantly be in trial mode. With demonstrably better products, sampling is a great way to go because it breaks through the competitive marketing clutter and reduces the risk of trial for consumers.
2) Brands need full marketing support not only during the introductory year, to maximize awareness, trial and repeat purchase, but importantly, also in Year 2, as new users can be brought into the franchise, and current users reminded to repeat purchase and why that brand is the best way to fulfill their need.
3) Brands need to continually innovate to grow sales with 1) New products, sub-brands and product improvements that add news and keep it ahead of competitors, 2) New channels that increase availability (Harry’s expanding from DTC to physical retail), and 3) New targets (Baby Dove)
4) All channels should strive to deliver a consistent and synchronized product experience, whether via a brand’s website or across retail stores.
5) There can be huge opportunities to create or enter nascent hybrid categories that are at the intersection of major trends, if done well with great products and execution (White Claw entering at the intersection of low alcohol beer, low calorie and gluten free beverages and naturally flavored seltzers)
THE 2019 NIELSEN BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION WINNERS:
● Arm & Hammer™ Clump & Seal Slide
● Baby Dove, Unilever
● bubly Sparkling Water, Pepsico
● CAULIPOWER®, Caulipower LLC
● Dave’s Killer Bread, Bagels, Flower Foods
● DEVOUR, The Kraft Heinz Company
● Dunkin’ Donuts® Bottled Iced Coffee, The Coca-Cola Company
● Flonase Sensimist Allergy Relief, GSK Consumer Healthcare
● Harry’s, Harry’s Inc.
● Herbal Essences, bio:renew, Procter & Gamble
● Just Crack an Egg, The Kraft Heinz Company
● Just For Men® Control GX®, COMBE, Incorporated
● Kinder Joy, Ferrero
● Lamb Weston® Grown In Idaho
● L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise, L’Oréal Paris
● Lay’s Poppables, Frito-Lay North America
● Maui Moisture, Johnson & Johnson
● Mtn Dew® DEW-S-A,Pepsico
● OuiTMby Yoplait®, General Mills
● parodontax,GSK Consumer Healthcare
● The Red Bull Summer Edition, Red Bull North America
● RITZ Crisp & Thins, Mondelēz International
● RXBAR, RXBAR
● White Claw Hard Seltzer, Mark Anthony Brands Inc.
● Xyzal®, Sanofi