Hiding Innovations from Customers2 min read

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I learned something quite startling.

The age-old problem of rolls of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and other rolled goods jumping out of the box when you are dispensing them was actually solved years ago by a clever packaging engineer.

My sister-in-law, Meredith Morgan, Press Here to Lock Endan award winning chemistry teacher at Governor Livingston HS in Berkeley Heights NJ, learned this from her students one day when she was fumbling around in front of a class with a roll of aluminum foil.

“Dr. Morgan, don’t you know about the little tabs your press in on the ends of the box?”

She didn’t. But she learns quickly. Meredith was so impressed by this innovation that she demonstrated it to me on every box of foil, plastic wrap, and wax paper in the kitchen.

Now, you might ask, “What does this have to do with my business?”

This is a good example of a small innovation with very practical, day-to-day utility that has probably never been marketed beyond the end of the box. Yet, it works well, addresses an annoyance that every consumer has experienced, but, somehow the solution has remained unused, probably by most consumers.

Note that once you learn of this little push-in tab, you will probably look for it on the end of every box of roll goods you buy. You may wish to follow this discovery on the Web, search on Google for “press here to lock end”tab pushed in

A further example of hiding innovations comes from a customer advisory board meeting for the Albany NY region of a major telecommunications provider. During this meeting, attended by many major customers from health care, high tech, industry, and government, a number of customers said, in response to the comments of other customers attending, “They provide you with that service? I did not even know that they offered that!” Here were major customers of a large, successful telecom who were not aware of significant service offerings. Needless to say, this telecom learned that their marketing efforts were ineffectual and needed more work. If you current customers do not know of your product or service offerings, how could potential customers discover them?

Have you made innovations in your products or services but never told your customers about them? Do you make innovations without even involving customers? When was the last time you actually asked your customers what they like about your products? Have you examined how customers use your product or service? Do you have a formal process to gather customer feedback? Do you have a Customer Advisory Board to drive innovations?