It is no secret that introducing new innovative products and solutions is challenging, and we all know that it’s people’s nature to hold on to the past and avoid what’s new and unknown. Yet innovation is rapidly becoming the lifeblood of the global economy.
Let’s take a look at what strategies Apple, DSM, and TenCate have used to promote their innovative products.
Apple is known for bringing new revolutionary products to the market that seem to be instant hits. However, it wasn’t always like that. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, journalists and business consultants predicted that iPhone would end up nowhere.
“Steve Job’s brilliant job with the PR and the media’s love of convergence will make an iPhone a must have for some early adopters and elites. But shortly after the launch the initial hype will wear off and Steve will move on to the next project at Apple.” wrote, brand consultant Laura Ries in March 2007.
And yes, the initial sales numbers were humble, so what Apple and Jobs did was listening to the market and critics, and they added new features to the iPhone. In the beginning, Apple refused to allow users to install 3rd-party software on the device, but then the company changed its mind. When Apple launched the 3G iPhone, the apps had become a major, most wanted feature, and users were hooked on these small programs called applications. The rest is history, today, 2018, the iPhone is the most popular smartphone and there are more than 2.2 million apps available in the App Store. Of course, there are many other factors that contributed to Apple’s success but the understanding customer needs is one of the most important factors.
But what if your innovation is directed to end-consumers but the purchase decision is made by a different target group? Who do you listen to?
Take TenCate’s digital textile finishing technology that allows industrial production of digitally printed textile. Thanks to this innovative technology, having a tent in bright and sharp colors with your favorite picture has become reality. If you are a camping freak like I am, and also 55% of the Dutch population, it sounds truly fabulous. So now the technology is in place, and it is TenCate’s job to make it popular and demanded, right?
To demonstrate the new possibilities of the digital textile finishing technology, they imprinted the famous “Sistine Chapel Ceiling” Michelangelo on tent cloth and showcased tents and beanbags with this image during the yearly show for camping tents and caravans that took recently place in Utrecht, Netherlands.
Visitors to the “Kampeer en Caravan Jaarbeurs 2017” were challenged to test the limits of their growing freedom of design with their own images such as prints or patterns in the digital design competition “Win Your Own Unique Tent.”In the same time, TenCate gave away digitally printed bean-bags in a Twitter contest.
But TenCate is not selling tents or bean-bags; they sell high-grade outdoor fabrics to confectioners who then turn them into final tent products. Does it make sense to promote the innovative technology to end-consumers?
B2B materials technology company TenCate thinks that it is equally important. Both the bean-bag giveaway and the “design your own tent” contests were a massive success and it helped to demonstrate the advantages of digital printing. It also brought the attention of the media to TenCate’s customers: producers of tents, industrial designers, and distributors. Yet there is still a long way to go before the digitally printed tents will be a camping hit; the acceptance of new things is a long process.
At DSM, innovation and re-inventing have always been part of the business strategy, and introducing new innovative solutions is “business as usual”. The company’s recent Project Liberty is a perfect example of breaking rules and creating new solutions.
I talked with DSM’s Joost Dubois about promoting this innovative technology. Project Liberty is the name given to the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. that was realized as a joint-venture between Dutch DSM and the U.S. based company POET.
In September 2014, Dutch King Willem Alexander opened the factory in Iowa that is predicted to be the beginning of a “new era” in clean ethanol energy. For the past seven years, DSM has been developing the technology which allows for the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol; this advanced biofuel will be mixed with regular gasoline. Click here for more information about a great award for young researchers.
Even though commercialization of cellulosic ethanol production was awaited for a long time by the biofuels industry, DSM faced many challenges. In the process of explaining the technology, making the general public aware of the opportunities, working with farmers and operating the plant, it is easy to miss what’s the real DSM business model. When reading the media coverage of the factory opening in Iowa you might easily get the impression that DSM is a new renewable energy producer that wants to gain substantial market share in this promising industry. But this is not the case.
Building a plant and creating a joint-venture with POET was a necessary step for DSM in order to show that this new innovative technology would be successful. See also their modern-day annual report.
What could be a better way of demonstrating DSM’s commitment to the biofuels industry than investing in a plant for the industrial production of cellulosic ethanol and showing the world how the transition from fossil fuels to renewable biofuels can be accomplished?
Proving that the production of cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale works allows POET-DSM to license the technology to other parties in the market that follow a “build-own-operate” business model, and scale up the technology for renewable energy production.
DSM’s role in promoting this groundbreaking innovative technology is complex, but we don’t lose sight of our main goal: selling the technology to other interested energy producers. We are making the technology of the future available to everyone, says, Joost Dubois.
Key facts about the POET-DSM Project Liberty:
[Source: Royal DSM website]