New Product Development — Knowledge Immersion

The objective of knowledge immersion is for marketers to understand their consumers’ needs and wants, behaviours, values, beliefs and motivations. They need to be aware of the macro trends in consumers’ lifestyles, shopping behaviours, and media habits. They need to understand how consumers relate to their markets and product categories, in terms of their usage and habits, and in terms of the functional, rational and emotional product qualities that drive brand choice. And they need to know how consumers relate to their brand in terms of the image that it has formed in their minds, and in terms of how they perceive its performance and benefits, and how they consume it. This understanding is vital for generating insights.

The sources commonly used for gaining the requisite knowledge about consumers are as follows:

  • Company’s historical knowledge base
  • Secondary sources
  • Social media
  • Primary research

One challenge that corporations often face, is how to leverage the explicit and the tacit historical knowledge base that resides within their organization. This dilemma is summed up by the old German saying: “If Siemens only knew what Siemens knows”. In big organizations if one seeks information, it is likely that someone else in the organization possesses it. The challenge lies in identifying and reaching that source.

To facilitate the retention and flow of knowledge, companies are developing and maintaining electronic library systems. Unilever for instance developed a knowledge management framework to categorize and pool consumer learning, in a web-based global knowledge bank that the company calls “consumer world”. If well implemented, this can greatly empower associates information that is dispersed around the globe, locked in cupboards and associates’ heads, becomes available at their fingertips.

Secondary sources, accessed via the internet or a public library, can be a low cost means of obtaining information in areas where gaps continue to exist.

Social media is a powerful, revealing channel for observing and engaging with consumers, particularly for categories that consumers are more involved with. It allows marketers to “listen” to unsolicited feedback about their market, their company and their brand from hundreds or even millions of consumers and “see” how they relate to it and how they use it.  As natural language processing and text analytics technologies evolve, marketers increasingly will be able to listen more efficiently to the glut of conversation on the net, and glean insights and ideas for new products. This source is particularly potent for exploratory research such as new product development, where we seek the unforeseen.

P&G’s “consumer pulse” is an apt example of technologically advanced social listening. It auto-scans comments on the internet, uses techniques like Bayesian inference to categorize them by brand, and then posts them to the relevant individual. Not only is this very useful for developing products and refining marketing efforts, it also enables P&G’s marketers to promptly respond to consumers or get engaged real-time in the online conversations, when they need to.

Knowledge immersion empowers associates with an understanding of their consumers that guides and directs them as they progress through the stages in the ideation process. It is an ongoing process; knowledge databanks need to be regularly reviewed and updated, and should any important intelligence gaps emerge, marketers may commission relevant primary research to fill those gaps. 

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