Why Ketchup is the Key to Digital Disruption

October 25th, 2012

Topics: Company News, Innovation, Measurement

Image Credit: Heinz.com

The speed of ketchup leaving a glass bottle is .028 miles per hour. That’s literally slower than a snail – which clocks in at a blistering .03 mph – but in terms of marketing value, .028 might as well be Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt.

Why? Because this seemingly trivial piece of data has helped an iconic brand like Heinz literally change its industry – in ways that directly affect customer experience, loyalty and, ultimately, revenue.

Not bad for a condiment.

I’ll explain how in a second. But first, a little context: we’re on the ground here at Forrester’s Forum in Chicago, “Seizing Business from Digital Disruption.” And that little ketchup anecdote came courtesy of Dustin Humphreys, Director of Digital Strategy and Operations for CVS, as he shared how innovation is rarely ever an accident. Instead, it’s often the result of careful planning, structure and culture.

In other words, it’s INTENTIONAL.

On the surface, though, correlating innovation to intentionality seems…naïve, or at best, incomplete. After all, innovation isn’t as simple as declaring that “we need to create something” or “change the way we’ve done things” – we’ve all failed enough to know even the best marketing plans can sometimes fall flat. So what’s the missing ingredient?

Enter Heinz. To them, .028 isn’t just a fun fact (although it does make a starring appearance on the company’s website trivia section). It’s a crucial piece of data that communicates a fundamental property of the user experience – that ketchup can be really hard to get out of a bottle!

And while I’m not privy to the inner workings of Heinz’s innovation masterminds, a quick glance at their product line-up seems to indicate that .028 has played a key role in the creation of a vast array of more user-friendly ketchup experiences. There’s the top-down squeeze bottle (get your ketchup faster!), a stand-up pouch (pour it out!), even a dip-and-squeeze option (for when bottle-fast isn’t fast enough). That’s no accident. Delivering a wide range of products allows customers to better control their own user experience, in turn making them happy consumers likely to buy Heinz’ products over and over again.

And isn’t that what we, as marketers, really want? Happy customers. Repeat customers. Revenue-boosting customers.

The key then, isn’t just “innovation,” or even “intentionality.” It’s “data-driven innovation,” customer intelligence that informs, inspires and improves our marketing.

And that’s what makes this age of digital disruption so fun. As the Forrester Forum is so clearly articulating, the amount of data we can tap into is staggering; web, social, mobile – you know the usual suspects – but it goes further than that. I’m talking the loyalty cards in your wallet, the nuances between your tablet and e-reader, the sensors in your running shoes. It’s everywhere. Meaning if innovation is data-driven, then our .028 moment is likely staring us in the face.

But you can’t optimize what you don’t know, and you can’t know what you don’t measure, and so it really boils down to how serious you are about being a data-driven innovator – and putting the right systems, processes and experts in place.

It worked for ketchup. Imagine what it can do for you.

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