How an F500 QSR Accelerated Time to Market & Maximized ROI on a New Product Innovation

Feb 5, 2020

New product development strategy doesn’t just stop with the product. It has to extend to marketing and advertising to effectively build consumer awareness and generate buyer interest. Makes sense, right? But the catch with creative development is the same one for new product development: if you’re not going after the right audience segment, you may as well be marketing to the moon.

A Fortune 500 quick service restaurant (QSR) understood this imperative. In their highly competitive industry, they were seeking to grow profits by introducing a new product innovation that would expand their market share. The company wanted to leverage their new menu product to acquire new category buyers and also drive incremental revenue opportunities within their current customer base.

In order to maximize the ROI of this new product launch, the QSR needed to implement a seamless transition from product development to creative development by establishing a best practice workflow for creative campaigns — from writing the initial creative briefs to final validation, as well as media planning and buying.

Connecting the handoff between these two processes would allow for more resonant, targeted creative development and ad effectiveness they could use immediately and for future new product development.

The QSR’s challenge in detail

When using traditional creative testing and validation for ad executions, the QSR’s consumer insights team had identified two problems they needed to solve: 

  • Timing constraints prohibited them from being able to test, refine, and optimize throughout the creative process, which led to…
  • The reliance upon an audience segment that wasn’t necessarily the potential product adopters they needed to develop creative against.

As a result, the brand saw an opportunity to more deliberately identify and target the consumers who were most likely to purchase a new product so they could create more impactful campaigns built specifically for those consumers.

As part of informing a more connected creative workflow, the team also needed to identify and better understand early adopters of their newest product innovation to know how to best reach and engage with this audience, ensure in-market success, and ultimately grow market share.

The solution and research

The QSR’s consumer insights team leveraged GutCheck Constellation™, an agile solution that connects survey data with billions of big data points to provide a holistic picture of consumers and how to effectively reach them. By uncovering consumer personality traits, this methodology allowed the team to understand which consumers represented the highest-potential early adopters and how to entice them to purchase a new product.

The research was focused on this key question: Who is the new product’s early adopter audience, and how should the QSR brand consider messaging to that concept-favorable audience in creative development?

In addition to the key question, they also came up with these research objectives:  

  • Determine the new product’s performance and estimate its market impact by understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) such as purchase intent, power to replace, uniqueness, frequency, and likelihood to recommend
  • Identify and profile early adopters by uncovering their unique traits and behaviors such as demographics, personality, lifestyle and interests, usage, needs and preferences, and content and media consumption
  • Seek product-driven creative development by formulating high-impact strategies such as what and how to message, the creative to employ, tactics and channels, and media planning

The results

Within three weeks, the solution yielded actionable insights that helped the QSR’s consumer insights team:

  • Understand what the most profitable market opportunity was in their category, including its potential impact
  • Identify their early adopters, or the consumers who would be most likely to adopt and buy their new product
  • Uncover the best messaging, creative, and media tactics to profitably and rapidly activate early or likely adopters

The QSR’s Director of Insights confirmed the value of Constellation’s process and results: “This is very different from what we’ve been doing for creative testing and validation for our new products. It’s incredibly valuable to see messaging recommendations that speak directly to a consumer’s personality type and interests.” 

Here’s more of what the consumer insights team discovered:

Market opportunity and potential

For current customers who would replace a lower cost item with the new, more premium product: Based on an analysis of both behavioral loyalty (actual market share based on purchase data) and attitudinal equity (consumer attitudes and perceptions toward a brand), the most profitable opportunity for the QSR brand was to retain and upsell existing customers. These insights covered an estimated 16.6 million customers who could be influenced to replace the lower cost products they currently buy with this new premium product. 

For QSR category consumers who would be most likely to purchase the new product over competitive options and why: Even though the new product is poised to have the biggest impact on the QSR brand’s current customers, analysis revealed an additional opportunity to obtain 31% of consumers who are currently purchasing a competitor’s product more often within the QSR space.

A holistic profile of their early adopter audience

The deep dive into early adopters revealed that two of their current consumer segments were more likely to replace what they’re currently buying with this new product.

In addition to a more comprehensive look at early adopters’ demographics, which skewed toward males, analysis on their interests revealed the type of lifestyles they lead, both physically and socially, as well as the trends they follow. This audience is more likely than the general population to be interested in fun, exciting, and social ways to be physically active, but does lack a comprehensive view on health.

Messaging and creative recommendations

The audience intelligence helped the consumer insights team formulate ways to execute against their high-potential market opportunities by reaching, engaging with, and influencing purchases among their newly identified early adopter audience.

What to message: Behavioral and competitive analysis showed primary needs and preferences for this audience; the following recommendations were made to speak to those needs and drive purchases:

  • Highlight specific flavors, ingredients, and other preferences
  • Position the new product innovation as a more exciting, flavor-packed option relative to competitors’ products (power to replace)
  • Show how the new product would best fit into the routines of target consumers and entice them to consume at a particular mealtime

What creative to employ: A certain tone of message and imagery type were also revealed to be the most influential when promoting the product to the target audience:

  • Messaging should use an upbeat, trendy tone that appeals to this audience’s desire to spice up their lives
  • Active imagery that shows outdoorsy behaviors or fun, social situations should be used

How and when to reach — channels and tactics: The team was also able to understand how to best plan for activation of this targeted audience with media and content consumption insights: 

  • The top three traditional TV topics this audience prefers
  • The types of websites and social networks visited most frequently
  • How long, where, and when consumption is at its highest

Centering the consumer in new product innovation

Armed with deep, holistic consumer understandings that they had gleaned from uncovering consumer personality traits, the QSR brand was able to successfully launch their product with more targeted and personalized promotional and activation strategies to efficiently and effectively reach their early adopters.

As the QSR’s Director of Insights explained, “The solution has totally elevated our concept testing game. We have never been more prepared to work with our creative teams. We are finally building our messaging and activation strategy based on solid research and data.” 

Supplementing their new product development strategy with high-impact, highly targeted creative helped the brand not only become more relevant within their category, but also maximize the profitability of their new product.

But there are wider implications than just one-off innovation projects. By being able to deeply profile the target audience, as this QSR brand did, restaurant, retail, and CPG brands are set up to use those audience insights to deliver greater personalization at every stage of the customer journey — from ads and promotions, to customer messages and interactions, to product packaging and placement, product refreshes, and more. Centering the consumer in new product innovation pays dividends in more ways than just getting a new product onto the shelves — or into the menu.

To see another example of how you can use audience insights for consumer personalization, take a look at the infographic below.

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