Why it's so Hard to Repeat that First New Product Success

And How to Find Your Next 5-Star Product 

You are so busy running your company/division/team that you have far less time to devote to thinking about products.  Take a moment to think about that first success.  What gave rise to it?  Did you see an unmet need?  Did someone say “I wish they made a ______”  and you made it?  

Could you do that again today with all the daily, even hourly responsibilities that come with supporting that first product, all the products since, and a company/division/team as well?  

That first hit product was successful because you met a consumer need in a salient way.   Perhaps that product resulted from a deliberate effort on your part or perhaps the idea just came to you one day.  You don’t have the time to dedicate to new product development anymore and you can’t rely on great ideas just coming to you.  But you can use research to create new products that fill unmet needs.     Ethnographic research is the process of discovering unmet needs by deeply exploring consumer behaviors and lifestyles and identifying needs that consumers often don’t even know they have.  

Ethnographic research involves hours spent interviewing and observing consumers.  It is a form of qualitative research (meaning smaller samples).  A typical study has about 10-20 respondents, or informants.   Informants are interviewed from one to four hours each – but also do a fair amount of “work” for us prior to a more structured interview.  The project tasks may include journaling, cooking, entertaining, keeping daily dairies for a few weeks, taking photos, cleaning, -- whatever it is we are trying to dissect, examine, and comprehensively understand.   We’ve asked them to send us photos of foods they’ve grilled and to share their pleasures and frustrations of cooking and dining at home.  We’ve asked them to buy a lobster and cook it on a grill using a specific recipe to evaluate the grill and the recipe.

We often photograph relevant places and spaces in the home such as kitchen cupboards or closets.  We watch people do things like clean their floors, or examine where they store things or how they cook a certain food.  We’ve asked them to empty the contents of plastic storage bins kept in closets, attics, basements and garages to understand what is stored where and why.  In the case of the studies we’ve done, most of the interviewing occurs in-home so we can observe real-life situations.  Beyond tasks in the home, we often send respondents shopping – asking them to shop for a new item and ask where they shopped and which items they considered and which one they bought and why.   

The point of ethnographic research is to observe and get inside a consumer’s head, to understand how they think and behave and thereby to identify acts of compensation where they are doing something special to compensate for a product that does not fit their needs or for a product that does not exist.  Finding that completely new need (product!) is the goal.  We have never failed to come up with at least one new product in each study we’ve done. Typically, we find many.   Can we discover a new product for you today?   

Please email Rick@Designres.com to receive a free, no obligation sample proposal for an ethnographic study today.