Idea Mining For Ideas Good As Gold

Where are all those good ideas for new products? Perhaps right in your own archives.


I’m going to start a new company.  I’ll charge major consumer packaged goods companies a fee to sell them ideas they already own.  And it will be worth every penny to them.

Here’s the deal.  I will get access to all of their new product research and product development summaries for say the last twenty years.  I will review all their proposals and the resulting decisions that either killed the ideas or changed them substantially before they ever got to market.  I’m betting that in every company I will be able to identify several “new” product ideas worthy of taking to market today.

Think about it.  Nearly every company has by now come to the conclusion that they can’t save their way to success.  New product ideas are critical to the life and health of any business, but especially in the consumer products world.

How many companies have new product teams working feverishly to find the big new idea or flavor or package or service that will drive substantial new business?  My theory is that they already have those big ideas.  They just don’t know it because no one is still around to remember them.

Even the smallest companies have invested substantial sums over the years on idea generation sessions, focus group after focus group, concept testing, product testing, new product modeling, mini markets, etc, etc.   And if you think about the major firms, I’m guessing the ideas are stacked up like cordwood.

But how many of those products never saw a national rollout?  How many were killed because the management sponsor was moved or deposed or just plain left the business? How many were victims of a budget cut to make a given financial quarter?  New products and advertising are the easiest things to cut because no one can point to volume this month that will come from either activity.

How many died because they were simply before their time?

I’m betting that when all is said and done, companies have walked away from dozens of very, very good ideas that could have driven substantial revenues and profits.  And finding ideas you already own is certainly more efficient than paying a whole new set of marketing managers, consultants, and researchers to “invent” them again from scratch.  Right?

One of the companies I worked for has turned over its CEO a few times since I left.  Every time a new one comes on board, I send him or her a polite letter describing a number of new products that they already own.  They are in categories that the company still considers core to their business.  They are still right on the consumer trends.  They delivered consumer acceptance numbers so good that the head of market research made us do the testing again. 

Nice, polite letters.  No response.  No action.

I’m guessing that if they had paid me a big fat fee to dig into their archives and bring out these very products, the CEO would be pounding his chest and mandating that those products be brought to market immediately. 

What’s really frustrating is when you see an idea that your company passed over and a competitor shows up with it two or three years later.  That could be an added service I could offer.  I could show the CEO a list of ideas his or her company had years before the competition that are now making money for the other guy.

The fact is that some of the people who made the decisions to kill some of those ideas were wrong.  Not evil.  Not incompetent.  Just wrong.  And because of the way things happen and the way marketing personnel turnover in companies, those ideas have been buried forever in a stack of files in the back room just waiting to be rediscovered.  Heck, this could be the basis for a reality TV show.

Idea mining.  Should be very efficient.  All the information is probably in a handful of places.  If I work with companies that have a history of disciplined analysis the information is likely to be in an easy to read form with good numbers and rich detail.  I parachute in.  Read some stuff. Then sell the company something they already own.  I figure my services would be worth a six-figure fee and still it would be a substantial savings versus all those repeated focus groups, concept tests and research studies.

In a world where we have cut back so far on marketing staffs, nobody is going to have time to do this inside the companies.  They should just outsource it to me.  Outsourcing is all the rage too, right?