This is the headline from an article I recently read in the Harvard Business Review, and it really is true. The parallel drawn in the article relates to the performance of Formula 1 cars versus the number of innovations and 'tweaks' added to a F1 car.
All too often we see brands 'innovating for innovations sake', squeezing the life out of their brand and its values, trying hard to solve a consumer 'problem' (although it never really was an issue, adding fan-dangled extras which have no real purpose or are confusing to the consumer etc. And these fancy innovations do not always gain the brand more market share or a better brand health score. In fact, they can actually cause the opposite effect.
There are some examples of brands from across different categories which, in my humble opinion, have over-innovated.
1. New Coke:
A case study every marketing graduate studies and a mistake no brand manager wishes to fall into themselves. After losing to Pepsi time and time again in the 'Pepsi Challenge', CocaCola decided to tweak Coke's formula to make it sweeter, thereby tasting more like Pepsi. The company carried out extensive consumer taste testing with New Coke, and it won versus Coke Original and even Pepsi. So all the signs that the brand would be doing the right thing. However, the brand forgot one vital ingredient - consumer sentiment for the existing Coke brand and its iconic taste. And the rest of the story is history. The Coke we all know and love was back on our shelves a few months later.
2. Premier Smokeless Cigarettes:
For those of us who are not a fan of getting a cloud of cigarette smoke in our faces first thing in the morning as we walk behind someone having their 'first one of the day', this sounds like a great idea on paper. However, the warning lights should have been spotted early on by tobacco company JR Reynolds after spending around $300 million on research, development and marketing of their new smiles cigarette, Premier. Not only did consumers not like the taste and smell of the improved cigarettes and fed this back to the company during its trial launch, even their own CEO was quoted as saying the product 'tastes like shit'! Clearly a product experience which didn't live up to the initial good idea. But an idea which is felt to have merit; at the end of last year, Philip Morris launched its IQOS smokeless cigarette after ten years of R&D development and £2.4 billion investment. The proof shall now be in consumer's hands.
3. Easy Cinema from Easy Jet:
The brand was looking to innovate and shake up the cinema experience for consumers. But they forgot some fundamentals behind basic levels of cinema-goers expectations which did not fit with the brand's values: we go to the cinema for escapism; we want plush comfy seats with lots of legroom and the ability to recline; we want to escape everyday. EasyJet's brand ethos of 'no frills' just doesn't cut the mustard. The downfall of this innovation in cinema experience was also not helped by the brand not being able to secure the latest blockbusters and the high cost of rents.
4. Home by Facebook:
This was Facebook's attempt to stretch its reach and to become the home screen for our mobile phones. Another great idea on paper, however the execution of this innovation did not match the Facebook promise of 'designing a phone around people, not apps.' Perhaps a stretch too far for the brand as users home screens often ended up a jumbled mess - Facebook was actually creating a new problem for the consumer, rather than giving them added benefits. But all was not lost for the brand as a number of key features were modified back into the Facebook app we all know and 'love'.
5. Crisp Scoop:
Yes, you did read that correctly. In essence, this plastic device helps you to lift your crisps out of the tub. An over-innovation and waste of plastic from where I sit. Has this really been a consumer problem which needed solving?
Click here to read the original article from Harvard Business Review.
New Coke: sodamuseum.com; uk.businessinsider.com
Premier Smokeless Cigarette: saleshq.monster.com/news/articles; www.sourcewatch.org; content.time.com; www.nytimes.com; /metro.co.uk