How can you use demand spaces to drive innovation?

Streetbees Team
April 14, 2023

How can you use demand spaces to drive innovation?

Does your team struggle to concisely describe how and why your consumers make choices? Does this make it difficult to uncover white space opportunities for your brand and determine your right-to-play in these spaces? Can you relate to Ivan?

“When you have a traditional segmentation, you do some white space analysis and then that kind of just lives with you in a document. Perhaps you see other trends happening, but you don’t get to do another white space analysis. They’re expensive, they change and people tend to get used to one. So there’s this challenge - you do something, you put it in a binder, you put it on the shelf, people forget, and then they wait for another one and that inhibits innovation. You end up doing more renovation than innovation.”

- Ivan Arrington, Insights Lead, The Clorox Company

If the answer is yes, read on.

The ‘moment’ matters

The key to uncovering white space opportunities for your brand is to ask the right questions of your consumers. Traditionally, organisations believed that demographic factors and aspirations were enough to determine what consumers want and need. But only 25% of our everyday choices are determined by this. The other 75% are driven by our immediate emotions and context. 

So, to successfully land your innovation pipeline, you need to understand not only your audience and your brand and products, but also the occasion of use or consumption i.e. the moment in which consumers use or consume a product and the context around this. Demand spaces are the intersection of these three elements, adding a vital layer of context to your innovation ideas.

Putting the ‘go’ into ‘grow’

 A demand space framework will allow you to identify four important quadrants within your category landscape:

  • Defend: Which of your core demand spaces are competitors growing share in?
  • Maintain: Which demand spaces are you performing well in?
  • Watch: Which demand spaces are you losing share in?
  • Grow: Which demand spaces are you not playing in but could be?

While all of these quadrants will be integral to your strategy, the most important for innovation is the ‘grow’ quadrant. This represents the spaces your brand should go after. These demand spaces will have emerging consumer behaviours and unmet needs that your products are well-suited to address, creating growth opportunities for your brand through innovation or renovation.

Through traditional research, an unmet need or an innovation opportunity might look something like ‘a new roast chicken crisp variant for families’. While this does identify the need, it struggles to add any actual context. When are these families going to be eating this? Where will they be eating this? What type of packaging do they want? What is the objective in the moment of consumption? Are there any barriers to overcome? Who else is competing in this space? Your demand spaces will hold all of this information. 

“So there’s two things that are helpful here. The first is that we’ve been able to identify emerging segments and demand spaces and we can cut these in all these different ways. We drill down by age or by competitive use or by day part or by whatever we want to really understand the nuance.\ \ There’s also this other piece where the data is basically alive, as new data is coming in all the time. This means we can be more dexterous with our choices. We deploy this right across the organisation now, including to our R&D folks, so they now have the same knowledge I do.\ \ This makes it clear where our home territory is, so we can make sure we always stay current and defend like we should. It also helps us figure out where we should put our money in the future, by finding those right-size opportunities.”

- Ivan Arrington, Insights Lead, The Clorox Company

So once you’ve created your demand spaces, how can you activate them to drive innovation?

Ready, Steady, GO

1. Determine the blue ocean spaces from the red ocean spaces

When you’re uncovering your growth opportunity demand spaces, it’s important to identify if the space you’re tapping into is a blue ocean space; a brand new market within the category that currently has no competitors, or a red ocean space; an existing market within the category that has other competitors. This will define how you approach your strategy. 

2. Keep an eye on the competition in your priority spaces

While you could be the ‘first mover’ in a blue ocean space, you need to stay on your toes, as consumer needs are continuously changing. In today’s fast-paced environment, that blue ocean space could evolve into something else. If you’re not monitoring these fluctuations, other competitors could move into the space with an innovation that better meets the evolving need, while you’re tied to an innovation that’s no longer relevant.

3. Don’t feel pressure to bank on the biggest innovation

You don’t always need to opt for a huge innovation to achieve growth. Sometimes a small product extension could do the trick. It really all depends on the details that lie within the demand space and the unmet need you’re trying to target. By understanding the context of the need and the motivations of your consumers within that moment, you can determine if any of your existing products could meet that need with a small renovation or if a completely new product is required to fill that space.

Want to find out more about demand space activation?

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