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Honing a Competitive Edge

By: Brian W. Budzynski and Jeff Falk
Posted: April 30, 2009, from the May 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“We found that there really are win-win partnerships,” adds Johnson. “Partners engage in a way in which [the three points of the model] are much more possible. That’s a challenge for many small companies. They are so worried about being successful or partnering with a big company that they self-limit, to some extent, the possibilities that can be created.”

While honing the ways in which it fosters this model, the company, like so many others, is still exploring the way to use terms so important in today’s marketplace—such as renewable, sustainable and natural, which are often used interchangeably.

“We haven’t gotten very rigorous in our language or thinking about this space in the industry. We haven’t defined exactly where the boundaries exist,” says Johnson. “People are committed to the products they are using and the way they are interacting with those products—demonstrating an underlying value to be using products that they feel benefit themselves, their families and the environment. What we need to do is educate, and come to more consensus in the use of words and the value of them.”

“The challenge, as an industry, is we present something of value to our customers,” adds Shafer. “All of those terms represent an opportunity for new thinking to how things were done in the past and for what we might do in the future. I think that goes back to using that ambiguity for opportunity to innovate and think differently. That creates opportunity.”

The Monell Center

Founded in 1968 as an interest of the University of Pennsylvania, the Monell Center is an independent research institute dedicated to basic research on how senses work, their basic functions and what role they play in human perception. The research delves into how chemicals as tastes, aromas and irritants are perceived, and how the liking and preference for these different stimuli are formed. The study of the outcomes of this research and welcoming them as guides to product creation could be key in connecting with future consumers in a way that current beauty products simply cannot. Consider, Monell Center’s research explores neuroscience and molecular biology, which facilitate insights into how receptors on the tongue, nose or skin react to stimuli and how a chemical contact with a cellular receptor becomes an event in the nervous system and information processed in the brain. It is conceivable, therefore, that products may be created to carry specific, targeted information—in addition to providing a physical benefit.