Last week I discussed the critical role that claims and demos play in positioning and differentiating brands, and the 5 key principles that lead to compelling visualizations. In this post, I'll discuss how to organize for successful claim and demo development and the process for bringing claims/demos to life, from inception to market.
Over the past 34 years, I’ve developed countless visual demonstrations for Procter & Gamble as well as other innovation organizations across a broad range of industries. But I definitely did not do it alone. Successful product, claim and demo development is truly a team sport. Understanding the scorecard, having a game plan, assembling the right mix of players, and mastering mechanics and technique lead to victory on the field … and in the lab!
1. Know How the Game Is Scored and Keep Your Eye on the Prize.
Every game has a different scoring system: 2-point baskets, 7-point touchdowns, number of runs or goals, etc. So does every product development initiative. The basis for defining a marketplace win is always the same: in-depth consumer insight into the “job to be done” or the problem to be solved. But what constitutes the win depends on what is gleaned from that insight, as well as a scouting report on the category and competitive players. What performance variables must be delivered? What benefits do we need to claim? What are the visual or other sensory signals of the benefit? Where are the competitors strong and weak? What messages will compel the consumer to view our advertising, stop in their tracks when they see the product on the shelf, and put it in their shopping cart? Relentless focus on delighting consumers, however that is measured for the specific project at hand, galvanizes the team and keeps them moving towards the same goal.
2. Develop and Share Your Game Plan.
With a clear vision of what a “win” looks like, it’s time to develop your game plan. This starts with a cross-functional brainstorming session to capture the “wish list” of potential claims for exploration. Ideally, the session includes Marketing, Advertising, Legal and Regulatory. After preliminary feasibility tests in the lab, Product Development refines the list and creates a “claims strategy” document that outlines the claims to be explored, the technical basis and design for those claims/demos and a calculated guess at the probability of success. Share this strategy with Management, Legal, and Regulatory before beginning the work. This secures alignment, sets expectations, establishes priorities, and accelerates approval when it’s time to take the results of your work to market. The claim strategy document also provides the foundation for claim defense, in the event you are challenged.
3. Involve the Refs Early and Often.
Yes, the lawyers are our friends. My best results occurred when I worked early and closely with my Legal and Regulatory team members. Giving them upfront exposure to the claim strategy and demo storyboards helps them understand the business objectives and clearly identify the “out of bounds” lines that will stop the play. In one case, we were able to shut down a potential legal challenge during a single phone call between in-house attorneys because our legal counsel had been involved in framing the claim language and understood the protocol and documentation that supported our position. In addition, Legal and Regulatory often suggested protocol tweaks that allowed us to make additional and/or more compelling claims than initially imagined. Engaging these resources early and often transforms their role from "gate keeper" to key collaborator.
4. Fill Out the Roster: Position Players, Specialists, Coaches, and Captains.
Successful teams bring together players with diverse, yet complementary, skills and strengths. Special teams, position players, and the occasional “ringer” are brought in to address particular game situations. The same is true for claim and demo development. Engage and involve Product and Process Development, Manufacturing, Marketing, Management, Advertising, Legal, and Regulatory. From inception to market, project leadership moves from one function to another until the end result is handed over to Commercial Production (for media development) and/or to Sales who delivers these tools in the field.
Within Product Development, draft the most experienced technical experts, who are well-versed in the product category, are intellectually curious and resourceful, and have a bit of artistic flair. Claim statements should provoke the consumer to challenge whether the product delivers on the promise. Demos should be startling enough to get a skeptical consumer or a retail buyer who's "seen it all" to lean in close and at least wonder, "Did they really do that?" These technical experts are the ones who will spend their time in the lab getting wet and dirty as they develop the plays that show conclusively and authentically how the product delivers on the promise.
Technical experts also collaborate closely with Marketing and Advertising, each bringing a different lens to the process. For example, during consumer insight sessions, Marketing’s focus is sizing the prize; R&D’s focus is solution delivery; and Advertising crafts compelling copy and turns simple "kitchen logic" demos or visuals into near magic for the consumer.
Bring the entire team together before game day to instill a common vision and share the game plan. This encourages teamwork and facilitates hand-offs and transitions once play begins. Plus, new ideas from various players’ perspectives can broaden the initial claim concepts into claim families, allowing for routine introduction of new messages that keep the game interesting.
5. Run the Drills, Master the Mechanics and Perfect Your Technique.
Try different things. Repeat the ones that seem to work until you’re confident they’ll work every time. See if others can run the play and get the same result. Call an audible if necessary. Adjust and run again. Practice. Practice. Practice. But once you’re ready to make the call, be prepared to back it up. In my prior post I discussed the importance of documentation, but it’s worth repeating here. Always assume you will be challenged. Over the course of my career, I faced 16 competitive challenges to claims and demonstrations that I or my teams developed. I won every one. Capture the product actually delivering the claimed benefit in laboratory notebooks and/or on video. That way, any regulator, or even a jury, can plainly see that the claim/demo is valid on its face. If the benefit is more subjective or exists “in the eye of the beholder", you may need to test the product directly with consumers to provide conclusive evidence that the consumer recognizes a benefit that may not be technically or scientifically measurable.
With the scoreboard in sight, the players in place, and the playbook ready, you’ll create compelling claims and demos that generate wins in the marketplace.
Need help getting started or broadening your current approaches? Contact me and let's talk about what help might look like for your innovation program. Check out the webinar below to learn more about effective product demonstrations.
About Michael Mason: Mike has over 34 years of experience in New Product Development, R&D, and Products Research, including 27 years with Procter & Gamble. He holds numerous patents and has helped identify new products, claims, and demos for categories as diverse as dishwashing detergents, baby care, facial and bathroom tissues, incontinence products, surgical gowns and drapes, and pharmaceuticals. A YourEncore expert since 2009, Mike helps clients bring their products to life through disciplined, but highly creative, claim and visual demonstration development and execution.