Wasted effort is tough for anyone in business to swallow. But unfortunately, it can be an all-too-common thing when it comes to CPG product research and development.
The majority of CPG companies are structured like this: one team works on innovation—they do the research, understand the target audience, test concepts, and make decisions—and another team, such as an in-house marketing group or external creative agency, handles the go-to-market strategy and product launch.
The trouble is, during the handoff between the innovation and go-to-market teams, a lot of important information about the product and consumer can get lost. It’s basically like playing a game of telephone in that what started out as a clear message gets hopelessly garbled along the way.
CPG innovation teams do all kinds of great work, but when the end result doesn’t fully reflect their hard-won knowledge, it can be disheartening for the entire business. Here’s a closer look at how those handoffs can devolve, the impact it can have, and how you can overcome it.
Where the transfer of knowledge goes wrong
Consider this hypothetical example: Let’s say a CPG company is innovating around snacks that moms can give to their kids to keep them occupied. The innovation team engages in significant foundational work to understand the mom and what she needs, along with the type of packaging that would work best. For example, perhaps the innovation team discovers that it’s important the product packaging is sturdy, so kids don’t break it. If that information doesn’t translate to the go-to-market team they could spend valuable resources creating a package design that doesn’t fit the mom’s needs.
When the innovation team hands the baton to the go-to-market team, they’re unable to translate what they’ve learned and can’t convey the valuable information they’ve amassed in an effective way so that subsequent teams and stakeholders are aligned. As a result, super important aspects to the product, messaging, and target audience get lost, and a product the innovation team had high hopes for ends up with just a ho-hum reception in the market.
Going back to our mom example, in finalizing the packaging details prior to launch, perhaps the go-to-market team identifies a trend in sustainable packaging and decides to go with a design that is used from recycled materials but not durable. Their messaging and in-store display strategy centers around the sustainability benefit, and not the context of occupying their child. While the team’s intent is on-trend, it fails to incorporate the underlying need moms have in durability. The product no longer delivers on the underlying motivation of the end-consumer, and the innovation fails to achieve the initial objective. Essentially the poetry of foundational insights is lost in translation.
There are many ways that a product launch can go wrong if there isn’t a clear handoff between teams. In the example above, it could be:
- Failing to consider the situational context when designing the packaging
- Forgetting the underlying imperatives in terms of what the product must deliver
- Missing the mark in how the product is messaged
- Overlooking the persona of the target consumer and how to connect
- Any one of these mishaps can affect the outcome in market and render all the foundational research wasted.
But there’s another problem that can pop up. Let’s say your innovation team conducted research a year ago. In that year, your target consumer changed and a key competitor moved into the market. A wealth of information may have been gathered way back when, but the game has now changed, and without updated data and consumer personas, the research that’s been done so far is unfortunately far less relevant.
Getting the most up-to-date and relevant information into the right hands is key to product success, but so is making sure subsequent teams along the way fully understand and can take action on that information. There has to be a clear and concise path forward, no matter who is taking the reins.
How to overcome knowledge-transfer challenges
Having well-developed consumer personas are crucial for any go-to-market strategy. No longer is it acceptable to speak generically to the target audience. Instead, understanding the different aspects of the dominant personality of the audience and delving deep into their needs—essentially, understanding and treating each customer as an individual rather than lumping them all into one group—helps marketing teams be able to meet ever-growing demands and expectations around personalization.
But none of this can be done without first taking the consumer and product research that the innovation team gathered and turning it into an actionable document that the marketing team can easily implement.
A single persona development solution that encompasses the goals of both innovation and marketing teams can, by its very nature, create a smoother handoff. For example, the solution can help your innovation team deepen their research and persona development practices by helping them determine your audience’s core needs within the context of the audience’s personality type and traits. It also identifies areas of opportunity that help inform your organization’s product roadmap. The solution can then take that persona information and turn it into an easy-to-read-and-understand report that gives the marketing team crucial insights into the type of messaging that will engage and resonate with your target audience and their unique personality profile. The solution can be run quickly to make sure teams have the most up-to-date persona information reflective of consumer changes and larger forces in the market.
But let’s go back to that handoff for a moment. The persona development solution helps translate key information acquired during the research phase in the following ways:
- It illustrates all the necessary components of consumer personas. Innovation teams intimately understand the details and needs of their target consumer, but it’s difficult to convey all that in-depth knowledge. The solution operates from the notion that persona understanding is at the heart of what the innovation team is doing, and doesn’t leave any crucial stone unturned for the next team in the process.
- It provides concrete, actionable details. The solution provides exact guidance in no uncertain terms: “Here is Emily. Her personality is highly open and she needs self-expression. Therefore, the colors X, Y, and Z and A, B, and C ways of communicating are really compelling to her.”
- It stands as a single source of truth. Both the innovation and marketing teams can refer back to the solution’s guidance and recommendations to make sure they’re leveraging the right data and using it consistently throughout the process.
- It prevents information from getting lost in translation. Because the document provides in-depth consumer data, the marketing team is always able to move forward and effectively message to their target audience without fear that a key piece of insight from the innovation team might go missing.
Ensure information integrity during the innovation lifecycle
Consumer and product research and persona development is too important to subject to the whims of miscommunication and misunderstanding. To avoid wasted effort, CPG innovation teams need a reliable, actionable way to transfer knowledge they’ve acquired during the research phase to marketing and creative teams to use in their go-to-market strategies.
With a persona development solution that provides detailed information, teams can experience a seamless handoff between innovation and marketing that helps everyone:
- Better understand the target consumer and what’s important to them
- Translate persona information into the actual colors, visuals, key messages, and other points that will appeal to the audience
- Utilize the information consistently at each stage and maintain information integrity
Watch this webinar to learn more about how GutCheck’s latest solution can give you the insights needed to ensure your there are no gaps between your innovation and go-to-market strategy.