Innovation Sighting: Subtraction on CPG Products

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February 8, 2010
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February 20, 2010

Innovation Sighting: Subtraction on CPG Products

Here are two CPG products from this week's Best New Product Awards. I tried them at home and noticed a pattern. That pattern suggests a different way to use the Subtraction Template of the innovation method, S.I.T.. The question is whether that pattern can be replicated on other products to create line extensions and new categories. The first product is the Bounce® Dryer Bar from Procter & Gamble. The second is the Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel from SC Johnson. See if you can spot the pattern in each:

Here are two CPG products from this week's Best New Product Awards.  I tried them at home and noticed a pattern.  That pattern suggests a different way to use the Subtraction Template of the innovation method, S.I.T..  The question is whether that pattern can be replicated on other products to create line extensions and new categories. 

The first product is the Bounce® Dryer Bar from Procter & Gamble.  The second is the Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel from SC Johnson.  See if you can spot the pattern in each:

Did you see it?  Each product has had an important step subtracted in how the product is used.  The conventional way to use the Subtraction Template is to list the components of the product or service, then remove a component, usually an essential one.  Using SOLUTION-TO-PROBLEM innovation, we take the hypothetical solution (The Virtual Product), and imagine problems that it solves.  These two products were created by listing the steps of how the product is used instead of the components.  The step: "consumer places product onto usage area" was subtracted.  In essence, the product has to "get" itself to the usage area or be installed in the usage area permanently so it can be used on demand. 

Let's see if we can replicate this idea with other CPG products.  Here are nine products and how a new product could evolve using this same pattern.

  1. Deodorant:  Instead of applying deodorant with an applicator, the product now has to reside under the arms on its own.  How?  Perhaps it could be embedded into clothing or undergarments.  Perhaps it is woven into the armpits of undershirts.  After a number of uses and wash cycles, it is replaced with a new dosage.
  2. Shaving Cream:  Instead of slathering on shaving cream out of a can, we remove that step and embed shaving cream into the handle of the shaver.  It dispenses as the shaver is used.
  3. Lip Balm:  We remove the tube applicator of the lip balm and place the balm somewhere else so it can be called into service when needed.  The question is: where?  This is a tough one because there is no intervening element such as a shaver, toothbrush, or washing machine as with the other examples.  Perhaps it could be stuck to your lips like the tiny, thin teeth whitening strips.  When you press your lips together, you get a dose of lip balm.
  4. Detergent:  Instead of pouring detergent from a bottle, the product is pre-loaded into a container within the washing machine.  The washer knows how much product to dispense based on how much laundry is placed inside. 
  5. Mouthwash:  Here is another tricky one because there is no intervening element.  Here is how it might work.  Instead of pouring mouthwash out of a bottle into your mouth, we have the product dispensed to the back of the tongue (where bad breath starts).  From where?  Sinus cavity, a tooth area, lips, etc.  Applications onto the body are  tougher because there are "less forgiving" areas to pre-install product as with the two cleaning product examples.
  6. Toothpaste:  Instead of squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, we pre-load it into the toothbrush.  It dispenses automatically.  This is the same idea as the shaving cream.
  7. Eye_Drop Eye Drops:  Instead of using an eyedropper to pour liquid into the eye, we place a thin coating on the eyelid.  When you squeeze your eye shut, the eyeball is moisturized.  This one is a stretch, but the concept could hold true with the right technology.  It would make it much more convenient than leaning your head back and taking aim with that little bottle.
  8. Hair Spray:  Similar to the shaving cream and toothpaste examples, we pre-load hairspray into a specially-designed hairbrush that meters it out as needed. 
  9. Floor Cleaner:  The cleaning solution is pre-loaded into the handle of the mop or somehow stuck to the floor where it can be accessed when needed.

Perhaps we will see some of these at the Best New Product Awards of 2011!