Consumer Research and Bottled Water

I work in Whirlpool's Innovation and Technology organization; we're responsible for filling the product pipeline with innovative product ideas.

Yet, time and time again I listen to people who look at focus group and survey data and kill innovative ideas because "the data" doesn't justify futher investment in a particular innovation.

I would love to see "the data" that justified the market for Bottled Water. Better yet, I'd love to "the data" that suggested companies could charge more for water than they could for gasoline!

The flaw I see is that we are comparing apples and oranges; to expect consumers to understand the impact of an innovation when they've never experienced and capture that information in the same manner you would capture their response to existing concepts they have experience with doesn't make sense. Somehow, there has to be a different mechanism to guage potential acceptance of an innovative idea.

I do have a theory and a model for innovation. A couple, actually. One of them is no different than what a number of companies (especially cell phone companies) already do: put ideas in the market and see what sells. The other is more scientific for those areas where putting ideas into the market is cost-prohibitive. I just don't have a way to test it out =(

This is a topic of extreme interest to me. Would love to get others' ideas on this.

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