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Using Venn Diagrams To Drive Brand Innovation

Posted By: SGK December 18, 2015

Back in grade school, we all learned about Venn diagrams. Those intersecting circles visually demonstrate which portions of multiple sets are shared and which are not. “I never quite knew when in my future life I would find them useful, if at all, but [many, many] years later I think I’ve finally got it: Venn diagrams are incredibly helpful tools for brand marketers to create and evaluate truly meaningful innovation that drives market performance,” says Bruce Levinson, VP of Client Engagement at SGK. “Or at least, that’s one way to use them.”

By innovation, Levinson refers chiefly to new products or services aimed at growing a brand.  Marketers know that for new products to succeed they must satisfy a consumer need, ideally an unmet and important consumer need. In reality, innovation must also achieve numerous other hurdles like internal financial targets, external retailer requirements and various social, environmental and regulatory constraints. Plus, critically, it must be a coherent fit with the brand positioning.

Typically the innovation funnel is filled with more concepts than a company has capacity to launch, so filters are applied (and testing done) to winnow down the field. Venn diagrams can be applied here. A company may also be looking to create new product concepts and Venn diagrams work just as well in doing that. 

Here is how it works: create a circle for each of the key drivers of your category, making sure to consider not just brand and consumer drivers, but also retail and corporate realities. Now partially overlap the various circles looking for synergies in the common areas: do your concepts satisfy multiple drivers? The strongest ideas typically do.

Let’s illustrate with some category examples: concentrated household cleaners deliver the consumer benefit of convenience, plus the joint financial and environmental benefits of smaller packaging and a more efficient retail shelf. That’s a ton of overlapping category drivers – lots of shared space in our Venn diagram. Greek yogurt is another good example, delivering on the protein craze, snacking culture, taste and a revenue trade-up opportunity for both brand and retailer.

The Venn diagram shown here demonstrates how a dairy company might evaluate an investment in Greek yogurt. You’ll see the three key drivers selected are: high protein; snacking; and financial attractiveness. Greek yogurt is the one product they make that satisfies all three drivers: Kids yogurt delivers on Snacking and Financial Attractiveness, but not High Protein; String Cheese satisfies Snacking and High Protein, but not Financial Attractiveness and so on.

Your own approach may be much more involved, with more drivers and more diagrams. The trick is to specifically identify the most meaningful drivers as they emerge (e.g., the protein craze) rather than something as broad as “healthy eating.”  Doing this pre-work well takes time to uncover the most promising insights. But a keen understanding of your brand, category, competitive and retail environments – plus a throwback to grade school math – can go a long way to driving your brand performance.

About Bruce Levinson
Bruce Levinson is Vice President, Client Engagement at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment provider that drives brand performance. Bruce is a passionate architect of brand strategy and is highly experienced in translating consumer insights and client needs. His experience helps clients meet market and regulatory demands while driving brand initiatives domestically and internationally. His previous positions include director-level marketing roles at Unilever in the US and UK, and as an advertising account executive.