The last eighteen months have been categorised by uncertainty and disruption. But for CPG brands, there has been a newfound sense of clarity in the new normal.
The pandemic has given CPG businesses the space to invest in genuine innovation. These businesses are no longer looking for small, incremental improvements. They are searching for major breakthroughs that can not only disrupt their category, but allow their brands to define new sectors entirely.
So what does this innovation look like? How can CPG brands embrace disruptive principles that deliver clear value and growth? How can you invest in disruptive solutions whilst minimising the risks?
On 23rd June, as part of Butterfly’s summer webinar series on Disruptive Innovation, the team were joined by Jenna Behrer, VP, Innovation & Activation, Heineken USA and Katrin Costa, Global CDI Director, Harpic, Reckitt. These industry leaders shared how they have driven disruptive innovation through their organisations, convincing leadership teams of the immense potential of initiatives outside of the tried and tested.
Here’s what they had to say…
Challenging models of commercial disruption
Butterfly Founder and Group CEO Bianca Cawthorne opened the discussion.
“The biggest blocker for disruptive thinking is that it often doesn’t fit into the business system. It doesn’t naturally mold with your processes and ways of working. These systems are the most impactful blocker of innovation.”
The systems of operation for most CPG businesses are designed for incremental innovation. This places a focus on product renovation and optimisation with the view of stealing share from your competition, retaining shelf space and increasing market penetration. And the smallest portion of budget and time is invested in genuine disruption; looking for opportunities to create new categories, establish new business models and define new channels of communication.
“But in this moment of widespread disruption, it is riskier to prioritise investment in incremental innovation. All you need to do is look at the shelves of a Walmart or a Tesco compared to five years ago.”
What does disruptive innovation mean today?
Maud Pernet, Director at Butterfly New York, gave her overview of what disruptive innovation means in our current climate.
“The birthplace of innovation is possibility. The current process of incremental innovation centres around existing consumer needs. But often when you start with existing needs, you often finish with an existing solution. To achieve disruptive innovation, you instead need to work with possibilities, explore the edge of technologies and work backwards towards the consumer at the centre.”
“This type of innovation creates desire. At the beginning for a few and eventually for the many. The ultimate goal is to spark mass-behaviour shift in the long run. You want your customers asking: how did I ever live without this? Why haven’t we always done this?
And one core value holds it all together: persistence. It is the unquantifiable element that is the difference between having a good idea and bringing it to market in a disruptive way. How do I build smart business cases for internal buy in? How do I onboard the right stakeholders on this journey? What are the guardrails to define when to persevere and when to move on?
Connecting the unexpected and building experience-led solutions
Bianca Cawthrone invited Jenna Behrer, VP, Innovation & Activation, Heineken USA and Katrin Costa, Global CDI Director, Harpic, Reckitt onto the virtual stage to share insights from their experience of driving disruptive innovation in their organisations.
Jenna Behrer spoke about the balance between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. “At Heineken USA we are on a journey to become a beverage company – as opposed to the current perception of us as a beer company. We worked with Butterfly to understand consumer trends and how we can shift this perception in the long term.”
“To achieve this, we set up a totally separate company dedicated to innovation – Moonshot Beverages. It has its own culture, ambitions and ideals. It’s not just about having great ideas – it’s about having the right systems which can bring these ideas to life.”
Jenna highlighted the importance of having a different attitude to risk – and embracing a “fail fast” mentality. “With Heineken, we need to make sure every decision has every angle covered. But with our experimental brands, we want to attack challenges with a different mindset. We want to test and learn. We want to see what sticks. And we want to see it fast.”
“My job is to be the bridge between innovation and strategy. This experience has clearly shown me the benefits of unleashing our team’s creativity in a way which inherently embraces risk.”
The real risk is standing still
Katrin Costa contrasted this with her experience at Reckitt. “We have always had a reputation for bringing different products to market. But now we are trying to embed innovation more closely in the DNA of our organisational structure.”
“We have teams who are dedicated entirely to getting out of our universe, identifying new trends, ideas and technologies – and bringing them back to our world and our customers.”
“The challenge is making the disruption as comfortable as possible – because driving these changes takes a lot of work. You need to have a collective buy-in from stakeholders in a vision. But I don’t have a recipe for how to do this! It varies with every individual and organisation.”
“And the reality is that we need to be fast. And to deliver change to a market first, you have to be testing multiple ideas at the same time. But there is a balance to be struck – you can’t launch a product before it is ready. But you can’t wait until it’s perfect and you are too late.”
Jenna picked up on Katrin’s point. “There is something to be said for launching faster than you should. But it requires localised A/B testing. We will launch specific products in specific cities and rush them to market – just so we can extract as much valuable insight from how consumers engage with them. “There is an interesting balance between scale and speed to market.” Jenna continued.
“Sometimes it’s about developing an MVP and identifying the green shoots it sparks and early adopters it entices. But to do this you need an organisational mentality which means you are allowed to fail – as long as you learn.”
Katrin agreed with this.
“Everything is always changing. It takes bravery to understand that the real risk comes from standing still.”
To catch the full insights from this webinar, you can watch the full discussion here
To learn more about how Butterfly can support your business with delivering disruptive innovation – get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com