At many Consumer Packaged Goods companies Brand Management can be broken down into two, distinct forms—Base and Innovation. Base is essentially the overall direction of the brand and the execution based on its current portfolio. Innovation is the arm of brand management that is focused on keeping brands relevant to consumers by developing products that are either completely new to an industry or a response to competitive innovation. The innovation process changes as a product moves through its lifecycle.
Today, we will be briefly taking you through the innovation process through the experience of two interns at two different companies. Collin’s experience at Tyson Foods was focused on understanding the consumer, product ideation, and investigating capabilities, while Brock’s experience at S.C. Johnson was focused on developing the sell story to retailers, how and where the product will live in store, and what the messaging should be. These different experiences will paint a picture of how the innovation process might look and change over the course of a new product being developed and ultimately being put on shelf.
Collin Masters—Tyson Foods
During my internship with Tyson Foods, I was placed in the innovation team in the deli business. Deli is a unique business within the industry because it is a mix of between CPG and foodservice and because many of the products are sold under private label store brands. The national deli innovation team is responsible for developing breakthrough innovations for Tyson’s retail partners.
My internship project was to get an innovation project off the ground. The business problem that I was tasked with solving was finding a way to improve household penetration—identifying a product platform that would attract new consumers into the deli.
I spend the first few weeks of my internship reviewing Nielsen reports and working with my consumer insights manager to determine who was not currently shopping within the deli. Broadly speaking, it was determined that household penetration within deli was high. Through this process, I was able to leverage first party data and secondary data to develop a consumer profile of our target consumer.
With my consumer profile in mind, I began to work with my cross functionals in finance and R&D to determine where our capabilities lined up what our target consumer wanted. Much of my effort was spent determining whether the innovation should take place behind the deli counter, at the hot bar, as a sandwich, as a snack, a meal kit, or even as cold grab and go. Based on marketplace trends and keeping my target consumer in mind, I was able to determine which segment of the deli would work best to launch this product platform.
Once the product platform idea was in place, I was able to work with my cross functionals to develop financial targets for innovation project. As my internship was nearing its end, I worked to finalize the roadmap for next steps to bring the project to life.
Looking back on my internship, it was a positive experience that went by in the blink of an eye. There were certainly moments where I was struck with “analysis paralysis” and was not sure how I would be able to pull a mountain of data into a coherent story. I was able to piece it together through working with my cross functionals—my goal was to leave every meeting with a clearer idea of where the project was headed. It was a true learning experience, and the feedback I received from my manager and mentors will help me for years to come.
Brock Mallek—S.C. Johnson
My experience this summer was very much customer (retailer) facing. The product concept itself was already largely in place, with minor details here and there changing along the way. With core attributes of the concept in place, I was left with the challenge of developing a go-to-market strategy.
For the first couple weeks, after completing onboarding sessions and marketing intern training sessions, I spent my time gathering information on the target category for this new product. From there, I spent time with the brand team to understand what their vision of the new product was and how they thought to best position it in the market. Here is where I began to formulate how we would compete with incumbents in this category—how we would differentiate.
The next step I took was working with cross functionals, the sales teams in particular. This is where I learned the most about retailers and how each of them may have a different take on the same product. Any CPG company has to understand how a product’s positioning or look on a shelf may vary based on the retailer. For example, a reusable water bottle may be placed in the fitness section at Wal-Mart and come in a pack of 2, whereas that same bottle may be in the kitchenware section at Kroger, sold individually and at a slightly different price point. Additionally, we need to understand that based on the retailer, shoppers may differ in the product attributes they value. With its Everyday Low Price Guarantee, a Wal-Mart shopper may be focused on cost savings, while the Kroger shopper may be focused on the added usage occasions of this new product. Understanding the retailer is integral in developing messaging to shoppers of different retail channels.
Armed with the understanding of how the product fits in with the rest of the market, how we could differentiate among competitors, and how our message will differ from retailer to retailer, I began to put to the pieces together in order to formulate the strategy. Relying on classic marketing frameworks such as the 4 P’s (or DMPP as SCJ calls it) and learning from cross functionals to understand differences between retailers, I was able to develop a roadmap for how sales teams should approach selling this product and how to adjust the message from retailer to retailer.
Overall, my summer internship experience was positive, challenging enough that I experienced substantial growth, while also providing opportunities to slow things down and learn from seasoned brand managers. Each and every day I was forced to look at problems from a different point of view—through the eyes of my cross functional team. The truly challenging part of the internship was learning how to synthetize the experience of my cross functional team members with my own thoughts and ideas based on my research and using those ideas to craft a coherent, interesting story that would have real impact. While there were some days, I logged off feeling drained and slightly overwhelmed; I never logged off at the end of day feeling that I didn’t learn something new or improve in some way—and that is what I think is the sign of a quality internship experience.