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The Truth About Innovation

By: Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA
Posted: May 31, 2013, from the June 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Unfortunately, this is often lost on most industry people who have never taken business classes. New products (which fail 80–90% of the time) should be need-driven in almost all cases (excepting the area of needs consumers didn’t know they had in the first place, which is rare). A beauty company’s job is to address—and, in many cases, exceed—expectations in meeting the market need while differentiating its offerings from competitive and substitute products. This attempt at differentiation generally results in a whole heck of a lot of non-innovation, some continuous innovation, and an occasional dynamically continuous innovation, but rarely does it result in something that disrupts the industry, a discontinuous innovation.

Nevertheless, marketers, media and beyond will continue to push “the next big thing” as manufacturers look for the next big ingredient and retailers tailor their product mix to meet the demands of their customer base. I will take the road less travelled and remind everyone that new market applications are what spawns innovation in the beauty and personal care world, and not necessarily a new ingredient that meets an existing need.

So let’s begin talking about ingredients and products in terms of how consumers view them rather than “innovations” that do not matter to the marketplace. Indeed, market applications are crucial to justifying the use of certain ingredients as well as the development and commercialization of the products themselves. So, moving forward, may the marketing concept be with you.

Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, is president of Green Marketing, Inc. He has more than 25 years of expertise in marketing and management, including with natural, organic and green/sustainable products. He is a cofounder of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, and he has published more than 70 articles. Duber-Smith also is a marketing professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver School of Business and an affiliate marketing professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He received the Wall Street Journal’s In-Education Distinguished Professor Award in 2009, the 2012 School of Business Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and is author of Cengage Learning’s “KnowNow! Marketing” blog. dubersmith@greenmarketing.net, ddubersm@msudenver.edu