Last night we were glued to BBC1 watching The Apprentice. What had us so interested? The teams were asked to develop a household gadget that would solve a problem and could take a slice of the £10 billion pound homeware market. The boys decided on a home composter but we were much more interested in the girls' team approach. They initially struggled for ideas after nominating Jane (a food manufacturing supplier) over the seemingly more qualified R&D Manager Katie. Finally they focussed on what problems they could solve in the bathroom. Laura said she didn't like being splashed in the bath and the idea of a baby splash screen was put forward along with a protective tap cosy. At this early stage they lacked ideas - and we often find that's not about knowing the market very well - when we do mum insight work we pull on the opinions and thoughts of thousands of mums. Out of this we can come up with product and service ideas that mums love, and are grounded in research rather than what we think 'might' work.
When we're working with companies on new product development we go through a number of testing and reviewing stages including focus groups which is where the girls went next. As they arrived one of the team said they really needed to listen to what the target market wanted. By this stage it was becoming clear that the team was already being influenced by the loudest members of the group - the same thing can happen in companies when one person wants to champion an idea - even if that idea is flawed and the market doesn't want it.
The mother and toddler group were used for focussed research, the ideas of a tap cosy and splash guard were put forward and (from what we could see on the programme) the guard was rejected (can't reach the child, splashing is fun) and the tap cosy was a good idea that mums would buy. On the street research was also done and the conclusions were the same. So they had different types of mums in different settings telling them the same thing (valuable insight both in terms of what mums want and also what they don't like) but as they moved to the design stage they ditched the tap cosy idea because it was too difficult or risky. Despite the market clearly telling them they wanted the product they abandoned it at the first hurdle. Developing a really good product that mums actually want isn't always easy and the companies we work with have to juggle commercial considerations but what's the point of developing a product that the market has clearly told you they don't want.
Katie, R&D manager, made it very clear that she thought there was no point in doing market research if they were just going to ignore it. We couldn't agree more wholeheartedly.
In the end the team member who was fired was the one who contributed the least. She didn't like the splash guard concept and we wondered if she would have been saved if she'd spoken up. We know companies don't work exactly like the Apprentice but it did make us reflect on listening very carefully to team objections during the product development process.
Get in touch if you are currently developing a product or need idea generation for products and services aimed at mums.