At the Plastics Business Summit “Sustain 08” conference this month, Nestle Waters’ North America CEO Kim Jeffrey revealed that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get how “one day a product can be touted as a success in promoting healthy habits and the next taken to task for its environmental footprint.”
But more than displaying an obvious lack of understanding of green issues (a health product is no good if its manufacture destroys my living environment), Mr Jeffrey also illustrated how far behind the curve of innovation and consumer-engagement large brands actually are.
Instead of bemoaning the waste created by his consumers of his product’s packaging, he should rather be looking for ways to stem the waste on both the production and consumer side. Maybe create a bottle that can be reused. Make the bottles customisable and run them in limited, collectable batches. Make people want to not throw them away. Deliver water to the consumer like the milk-vans of old.
Big brands aren’t the thought-leaders anymore. They’re not the big-ideas-merchants they once were.
The next level of innovation is with you.
You’re the one who knows how best to solve your problems because the problems are yours. Take banks for example. For years, people have been complaining about the banking business model. Top of the list is the way you pay fees to an agency that uses your money to make more money for itself. The first bank to show real returns to its clients through decent interest payments will win the game. But do banks really want to listen to their clients on this one? Same goes for airlines. The first airline to solve the myriad of common problems with its clients (like the insane booking and refunds system) will break rank and come out on top. What’s the bet that all those negative reviews just go into file 13 without even being considered?
Sure these companies can continue as they are but given time and the current shifts in technology and economy, they’re going to find themselves flatfooted in the future. It’s not a pipe-dream. It’s a reality.
The message to brands must be clear: don’t tell us how great you are by showing us yet another “solution” that does nothing to benefit us. Talk to us and make your next change off the back of the discussion.
Don’t believe it?
The cost of not understanding or engaging your market at the right level was felt earlier this week by Motrin. Despite what you think of the merits of the situation, the fact remains that Motrin took notice of its consumers too late (and initially not at all) and it was their undoing. And it could all have been avoided with a little discussion and comprehension from the brand (or its agency).
Brands need to realise that the NEXT BIG THING won’t be a discovery from within their R&D department but from without, from an email or a discussion with their consumers. And brands that fail to realise that are doomed to fail.