Where Ideas Come From


Let’s start by talking about cyclone technology. You’re gripped already, right…?

Actually, it’s really about James Dyson – one of the greatest industrial designers of recent times.


In 1978 Dyson noticed that an air filter in the paint room in which he was working was constantly clogging with dust and powder. So (as you do…) he designed and built an industrial cyclone tower that removed the particles using centrifugal force.


Later he was vacuuming at home in the Cotswolds and became increasingly frustrated with the lack of suction as the pores in the dust bag became clogged. He realised he could solve the problem with the same technology. Many prototypes later (over 5,000 apparently) and Dyson had a series of patents for a bagless dual cyclone vacuum cleaner.


It went on to become the fastest selling vacuum cleaner ever made in the UK.


In October 2006 Dyson launched the Airblade – a fast hand dryer that uses a thin sheet of moving air to remove water (rather than attempting to evaporate it with heat). He went on to design the Air Multiplier – a fan without blades. Then the Dyson Supersonic – a hair dryer.


All these inventions are based on a single idea. The most effective manipulation of air. Dyson used it to solve issues with existing products and make them better. Across many categories.

The Dyson story is the story of innovation in general. Identify an idea in one area. Look at the principle behind it. Then reapply it to another area.


Why are we talking about this? Well, in our industry new ideas are (obviously) really important. The classic example is product innovation. But it goes beyond product. It could be other new ideas to drive category growth. It could be new promotional ideas. It could be ideas about new ways of selling.


Typically, when we try to develop ideas we look inside. We look through the lens of a category or brand. We look deeper and deeper. But often the more you look inside, the more you miss. You end up with a hand dryer that blows hot air harder.


However, what if you look outside? Look at what is happening elsewhere for ideas that could be reapplied. You might end up with something like the Airblade.


Most of the ideas to grow a category or brand are probably out there somewhere. The key is to identify the most relevant ones and reapply them.


So where can you look?


Look down the fabric conditioners aisle. This is a category that has really focused on the main driver of choice in the category – fragrance. Then it has continually upgraded delivery on this. So much so, that the category is now not just about fragrance it’s about perfume. Many shoppers are paying £5 or £6 per bottle for it. What could superior delivery on the drivers of choice look like in your category?


Look down the Mixers aisle. This is a category that was very much a secondary purchase. Something that you thought about after you’d thought about Spirits. Mixers have now been completely reframed (by Fever Tree). For many people the choice of Mixer is as important as choice of Spirit. On many bar menus, the Mixer leads and the Spirit follows. If you are in a category that is more of a secondary purchase how could you reframe it to make it as important as the primary purchase?


Look down the Tea aisle. This is a category that was about normal black tea. You drank it hot. It was very reliant on the kettle. Now look at the increasing number of cold serve infusion products. New products that allow the tea category to compete in the largest number of drinking occasions (cold for refreshment). Occasions that have traditionally been dominated by soft drinks. Who are you competing with for usage occasion and what ammunition do you need in order to compete and win?


Look down the Beer aisle. This is a category that was based around lots of similar tasting products. Largely sold in multipacks and cases. Often on deal. Craft has changed that. It has reminded shoppers that taste and flavour is important. That branding is important. That the way you sell (e.g. tasting notes) is important. It has injected a big dose of life into the category. If you are a category where flavours, tastes and stories are important, how can you bring this to life more?


Look down packaging free aisles. Some of this has been around for ages – think Produce. More of this is coming – think the trials with Cereals (& other categories) in Waitrose, M&S and Asda. There are already solutions in individual categories – think the Lindor Pick & Mix in Sainsbury’s stores. It’s not just about less packaging, it is also about more varied choice. Don’t buy the single flavour box or the standard mixed box - buy a mix in the exact quantities you want. The packaging trend is only going to go one way – what could your solution be?


These are just a few examples. There are plenty more out there.


Look outside. Then bring these ideas inside.


It’s what James Dyson did. And we got hand dryers that actually dry your hands. Quickly. Wow.


Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.

© 2020 by Insight Traction