The story of "Align Probiotic Food Supplement" development by
Procter & Gamble has important lessons for innovators.
always look at
contradictions in the marketplace. They discovered that more than 30
million people in the United States alone suffer from the irritable bowel
syndrome. It was a pressing problem with no adequate solutions. P&G decided
to make the lives of these people better by developing a probiotic pill
whose daily use could alleviate the symptoms of the syndrome. The project
intellectual property and disruptive potential as completely new market
niche was to be created.
Yet, on its way to success, the project was about to get shut down. Why?
Launching a new
brand is expensive, but the original market forecast said that the
opportunity would be too small to justify the investment. In addition, the
team hadn't yet solved all the technological problems.
Regardless of the tough issues and challenges the
innovators faced, the
team, under the guidance of its
entrepreneurial leader Nancy McCarthy, persevered. They knew that crummy
market forecasts can obscure solid business opportunities, and that
innovation success requires looking at the numbers critically before making
investment decisions. The Align team decided to look for the
assumptions behind the numbers and find simple, affordable ways to pressure
test those numbers in as-close-to-market-conditions as possible.
The team conducted a scenario analysis to identify the assumptions that
would have to prove true to justify a full-scale launch. P&G top management
agreed to provide a small amount of money to check these assumptions. The
Align team launched the product on a small scale
over the Internet to
test market the supplement and get
market feedback. They used P&G existing pharmaceutical sales force to
push the product in a few cities without spending money on
"The team stair-stepped to market, never investing ahead of learning," said
Chief Technology Officer Bruce Brown. Important insights came from this
step-by-step process. Instead of simply having a container with a bunch of
pills in it, the Align team created a "blister pack" that provides patients
with easy, once-a-day dosing convenience.. Product
differentiation, including branding, changed as well.
P&G then moved to sell the product online through websites like
Walgreens.com and launched the product nationally. Align won the Gold Edison
Award for being one of the best new products of 2010 and became the #1
gastroenterologist recommended probiotic. The supplement contains Bifantis,
patented probiotic that helps to build and maintain a healthy digestive
system and to support your natural digestive balance. Consumers who
tried Align reported
that their lives were changed.
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