Editor’s Note: Prepared Foods asked Dave Lundahl, founder of InsightsNow, to create a thought leadership series connecting R&D with consumer insights.

Lundahl has held many industry leadership positions, written for various publications, and is sought for speaking engagements on topics that align with his passions. He served as a professor working in food product innovation at Oregon State University before starting InsightsNow in 2003. Dave holds a Master of Science degree in Statistics and a Doctorate in Food Science & Technology. 

This the second installment in a series.

You have a wonderful idea that will improve everyone's lives. Maybe it’s the next billion dollar product idea—yet that is all it is at the moment. For the moment, it’s an idea with a lot of excitement, energy and emotion from the team or person who came up with it. 

How do you take this idea and flesh it out into a concept that actually has measurable potential? How can you leverage the energy and excitement of the team to transform it from just an idea into a strong concept, one that will impact people’s lives? 

To start to answer those questions we need to first gather behavioral insights on how people feel about and react to the idea. Then it’s important to leverage those insights—and the experience of consumers and the innovation team—in a collaborative creation process (co-creation). This important stage in the product development process should not be done in a vacuum. By using behavioral insights and co-creation at this crucial stage, you can avoid wasting time and money, and build a concept from which you can measure the potential to impact people's lives.   

Nudging or Disrupting Consumers
Success in concept creation depends on how well you identify and characterize the consumer behavior you want to leverage or change. This begins with understanding if your goal is to nudge a current behavior along, or if you want to disrupt people and get them to do or try something new. 

If your goal is to nudge people, then you will focus your concept creation on leveraging existing implicit cues, which are driving your target consumers’ behavior. If your goal is to disrupt behaviors, you need to find new cues and triggers that make people stop and consider more explicit decisions.

To fully address the behaviors you want to leverage or see changed, it is important to define the behavior and the key drivers behind the purchase decision. This means fully defining the people, the context of their decision (occasions and needs), their motivations for taking action, the cues that will trigger their decision, and the products that are providing the desired “rewards.” 

Consider this information as the foundation upon which the concept is built. Using this information ensures your concepts are purpose-built to impact the specific consumer behavior you want to elicit. 

Co-creation for Concept Creation
Co-creation is a highly collaborative approach to concept creation. The team you choose for the co-creation process will depend on what innovation space you are working in, and what consumer behaviors you are trying to overcome or encourage. Typically you want consumers, product developers and marketers involved in the process. However, you will find by extending the team to include other creatives—including advertising designers and packaging experts—will help you expand the number of variants you are able to build. 

Here are the steps that go into designing a co-creation session:
• Research the gaps in current experiences that new products or services could fill to deliver against unmet needs.
• Define the implicit (intuitive) connections and associations, which already exist that are associated with ingredients, flavors, preparation, and packaging methods.
• Layer together various implicit associations into the product design when you are looking to nudge behaviors. Implicit thinking by consumers is fast, non-conscious reactions and responses.
• Layer together explicit associations into the product design when your goal is to disrupt behaviors, and increase your separation from the competitive products people are already using today. Explicit thinking by consumers is rational, cognitive, taxing decision-making.
• Organize these ideas thematically, building a platform against which specific flavor or design options in the product line may be regularly added. 

Before you get into the specifics of different product variants or flavors, which might make up a line, you want to be sure your foundation is focused on a common pathway and core motivation that will consistently drive people to integrate the product into a regular repeating moment in their life. 

With clarity on the behavior you want to see and the motivations driving selection and satisfaction, you now know how to create and select metrics that will measure concept success. When building concepts to deliver behaviorally, traditional metrics of purchase intent and overall liking are only baseline measures. Liking a product does not guarantee that it will impact purchase behavior. However, delivering against consumer’s core “in-the-moment” motivations will allow you to measure behavioral impact. 

The Right Concepts
Co-creation while focusing on behavioral outcomes can provide a strong list of concepts that clearly describe to consumers where in their life the product fits, what cues are expected to trigger purchase behavior, how they will use the product, and what rewards they can expect as a result of consumption. Filtering through concepts based on how well they are anticipated to deliver on consumer motivation, and what share of behavior or choice they will receive, provides the best estimate of impact. 

To decide which of your concepts to move forward with, use measures of consumer behavior impact, alongside traditional business decision metrics—such as executional difficulty, potential capital expenditures, speed to market, sourcing and other business constraints—to arrive at a final decision. Traditional portfolio selection strategies can then be used to identify which concepts can move to market quickly, and which concepts need to be placed on a strategic, long term path. 

With these co-creation concepts and business tools in hand you are ready to move to the next sprint in the agile innovation process—starting co-designing and bringing your next billion dollar product closer to reality.

Read the previous installment from InsightsNow.