Made-to-Order Custom Concrete

Posted By: Chris Bradley | On May 21, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Product: Made-to-Order Fresh Concrete
Brand: Fresh Concrete

Retailer: N/A
Type: N/A
Location: Haywardfreshconcrete, CA

Concrete is a tricky business.  Traditionally, it has been delivered in the iconic cement trucks that turn constantly to keep it from drying out.  It is very perishable and can only travel a small distance.    If you don’t order enough then you can be in big trouble as it may take hours or even days before you can get more delivered.  Order too much and you have to pay expensive disposition fees to dispose of the excess.   Enter Fresh Concrete.  The Fresh Concrete system is a specially designed truck that has four different compartments for: cement, gravel, sand and water.  All of the components needed to make concrete.   Once at the jobsite the concrete is mixed to order allowing you to pay for just what you need.  

I recently found this company when pouring a new driveway at my house.  The whole solution was efficient and a step change in improvement from my prior experiences.  I couldn’t help but think of how this idea could be applied to consumer products in new ways.  Sure build-to-order or postoponement solutions are not new in consumer packaged goods, but the idea that you can build-to-order at the very last point of consumption is not one that I have seen executed well.   I am thinking beyond customization at the point of sale.  I am thinking more of customization at the point of consumption in the consumer’s home.   Imagine ice cream where the flavor was mixed at the point of consumption in the consumers freezer?  Vanilla for Mary, Chocolate for Sue and Vanilla Mint Chip for Mom.  Seems like Build-To-Order could be taken a few steps down stream allowing the consumer to customize to their whim.

Innovation Pattern:  Extend Customization to the Point of Consumption   

Sparks: (Ideas for how to reapply this pattern in another product category)

  1. How could your consumer customize at home?
  2. How far down the chain could customization happen?
  3. If your product is perishable, would a delay in blending of ingredients extend its shelf life?
  4. If consumers did final customization would they purchase the same products they do now?
  5. What benefits could be had by allowing consumers to make your product?

Hybrid Liquid Hand Soap

Posted By: Chris Bradley | On May 1, 2009 at 1:37 am

softsoap ensemblesProduct: Softsoap Ensembles
Brand: Softsoap

Retailer: Target
Type: Mass
Location: Walnut Creek, CA

Softsoap Ensembles is a new liquid hand soap system that is partly durable and partly consumable.   The product has a durable, reusable metal pump that you simply move from one soap base “cartridge” to the next.  This approach greatly simplifies the refilling process, promotes both better reuse and recycling and provides the user with greatly improved design aesthetics.

Ok. Ok.  You can call this example shameless self promotion if you must ( since 2ndEdison designed and developed this product for Colgate. ) however, this is a perfect example of how a pattern of innovation can be reapplied to make a new product in another category.  Just take a look at the razor blade business and you will see a well developed spectrum of products including fully disposable razors on one end and completely durable razors on the other.  In the middle, you find the hybrid: durable razor handles with disposable blades.  The hybrid in this case delivers a significantly better experience for the end user and also accounts for the bulk of the revenue in that market.

If you look at the liquid hand soap category prior to Softsoap Ensembles, there really were no hybrids.  The consumer was forced to either buy a completely durable dispenser and refill it, or buy a completely disposable dispenser and throw it away.  So look for the opportunity to make a hybrid in your business.  It is not just about creating hybrid durable and consumables either.   Could it be part product and part service, part analog and part digital, part new and part used, or?  The trick of course is finding that perfect match that creates something truly new and relevant for the category.

Innovation Pattern:  Make a Hybrid from the Ready Alternatives      

Sparks: (Ideas for how to reapply this pattern in another product category)

  1. How can you find a middle ground between the ready options a consumer has in the category?
  2. Would making your product or packaging more disposable add any value?
  3. Would making your product or packaging more durable add any value?
  4. What other categories of products could be merged with your product to create something new?
  5. What would make consuming or using your product easier for the consumer?

Gift Wrapped Experiences

Posted By: Chris Bradley | On April 21, 2009 at 10:42 am

london-mar09-073Product: Gift Experiences
Brand: Activity Superstore

Retailer: Boots
Type: Drug
Location: London, England

Experiences have long been the perfect gift, although they are not quite as exciting to unwrap.  Activity Superstore in London and several competitors, such as SmartBox, have taken on this challenge and offer a choice of experiences ranging from riding in a Ferrari, skydiving, driving a tank, a day at the spa, a theatre package, etc.  Each experience is thus transformed into a product bearing an SKU and shelf space!  Each experience also comes in a nice gift box, including a DVD to showcase the experience and other literature to help the recipient plan their adventure.This picture was shot inside of a Boots Drug store on the outskirts of London.  More than 25 different experiences were offered.  

What I find very interesting about this innovation example is that the marketers made the associated experience (of gift giving/receiving) much more exciting.  They focused on the gift giver as their consumer, instead of the actual consumer.   They also “productized”  services.  You could also do the reverse and “servicize” a product.  Regardless there is a lot going on in this case study that can be leveraged to create new product ideas.  

Innovation Pattern:  Productize or Servicize It  

Sparks: (Ideas for how to reapply this pattern in another product category)

  1. How can you make the associated experience of giving your product/service as as a gift more exciting?
  2. How can you find new “shelf space” for your product by productizing or servicizing it?
  3. How can you get consumers to purchase your product in advance?
  4. What associated services could you bundle with your product to make it an experience?
  5. How would you market your product if you focused on the gift giver vs. the end consumer?