Over my 36.5 year career at P&G, I learned that there are four things that are important for any technologist to be successful, particularly in the consumer products space. These are in addition to novel science that offers unique claims and strong patent position that is also safe for intended use.
1. (Really, Really) Understand the Consumer
Before solving a problem, technologists and marketers are taught to develop a good understanding of what the consumer wants and what the consumer is missing. The challenge is that consumers do not always know or directly communicate this. Therefore, as a technologist, I took an interest in learning about consumer research from the experts, specifically interpreting and calibrating what consumers both say and don’t say about their needs.
2. Design for Simplicity
I learned that no matter how strong the promised benefits of the product are, the use of the technology cannot stray far from what a consumer would normally do for a certain activity - like washing hair or cleaning clothes. For example, a product that requires a three-step process to wash hair when the standard is one (apply shampoo) will likely fail. It's important to understand the consumer’s usage habits and keep things simple, close to their existing habits.
3. Appeal to the Senses
Most product categories, and especially consumer products, must have good aesthetics, which the consumer understands, readily perceives, believes, and appreciates. Many times, good aesthetics also accentuate the main benefits, and conversely, poor aesthetics can detract from performance advantages. In this category, looks really are everything. But so is smell, touch, feel, and taste. Technologies that solve one problem, but introduce negative aesthetics most often will not succeed.
4. Make it Affordable
This is really becoming more important in today’s world. Many times, we scientists believe that our job is to develop the technology; then, someone else will solve the cost problem. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Technology and products we create must be both affordable to the consumer and profitable to the company, so technologists should start incorporating cost factor early into their designs. We must keep in mind that consumers have many options.
Working within these design parameters creates new challenges and requires exploring and learning new areas of consumer research, marketing, finance, and other adjacency disciplines. It is hard work, but then again, therein lies the fun.
Dr. Satya Majeti spent 36 1/2 years in R&D with Procter & Gamble, where he was responsible for over 30 patents and was recently named a 2014 “Hero of Chemistry” by the American Chemical Society. Dr. Majeti has been a YourEncore experts since 2007 and consults clients on innovation, strategic planning and technology development.