What Can We Learn from P&G’s New Laundry Pods?

Judging for the response to P&G’s new laundry pods, there isn’t much excitement about this latest innovation in laundry care.  Maybe it is due to the fact that a lot of innovation these days has been called “game changing” when it really only is a line extension or product improvement.  There is a lot of hyperbole in the world of innovation, always looking for the next “disruptive” innovation.  Maybe it is a sign of the times with so much happening in the online and technology world (facebook, twitter, foursquare, iPhone4, tablet computers, etc.).  It is good to strive for these types of innovation to create “blue oceans”.  But it should not be the end-all-be-all.

Good innovation, just like life in general, is about balance.  You need the right mix of products, pearls and all.  The key is good portfolio management so you can play to your core strengths in critical strategic areas.  Though it is good to strive for disruptive innovation, it is not realistic to achieve it every time you launch a new product.

Good innovation is about fulfilling a consumer need.  If you can achieve it with “game changing” innovation, that’s great, but it does not always have to be that way.  In consumer testing, P&G says that consumers love the convenience of having a pre-measured pod to get “excellent results with minimal time and effort.”  That is the need the pods are fulfilling.  One need they are not fulfilling is that of consumers washing less than a full load.  For that need, the innovative method® pump product, mentioned in one of my previous post, might be better suited.

As Robert Cooper wrote in his book “Winning At New Products”, there are different types of innovation.  They all play a critical role in a product portfolio and should be used to achieve strategic goals set: New to the world, new to the company, new to the category, product improvement, line extension, cost reduction.

Innovation is hard work.  Innovation is a continuous process.  It doesn’t stop with the launch of a product.  Far from it, it is omnipresent and requires to continually improve, research, challenge, dream, etc.

P&G’s launch of Tide Pods is just that.  Having failed in the 1960s with its Salvo tablets and seeing its competition fail in the 1990s with their improved versions, P&G has continued to research for the right technology and the right time to address a consumer need.  Despite failures and competitive entries, P&G is re-entering the laundry pod category.  It is not easy to come back from failure and it certainly is not easy to try something again after failure.  The Tide Pods are fulfilling a specific consumer need that fits into the Tide product portfolio.  They may not be new to the world nor to the company or category, but I am sure they are achieving a strategic goal within the Tide portfolio.  There is a lot we can learn from that.

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