Greg Stucky on the "aspirational gap" in product innovation

Greg Stucky, Chief Research Officer of InsightsNow, came on to our Now That’s Significant market research podcast for a second time recently. Greg's career has focused on new methods, techniques, and research services for inspiring innovation. His expertise in applying consumer behavior to product innovation has been recognized in industry publications like Harvard Business Review, the Los Angeles Times, and several industry publications.

To kick off our discussion, Greg shares a "dirty little secret" about product innovation that insiders hold tightly. He reveals that one of the most important pieces of information for innovators is understanding the size of the aspirational gap – or the space between what consumers aspire to do and what they actually do – in specific moments of an individual’s life. Greg says that by identifying this gap, innovators can create products that resonate more closely with what consumers want and will buy.

He highlights the discrepancy between how companies run their innovation programs and consumers' daily lives. Many companies focus on metrics that don't align with consumers' actual choices and behaviors. He says “very few are ahead of the game, looking into how do I improve a person’s life? How do I make the future better, brighter, happier, healthier, cleaner? How do I drive that engagement?”

To illustrate this concept, Greg discusses the example of sustainability. He says research shows that, while consumers express a desire for sustainable products, they often don't prioritize sustainability at the point of purchase. This creates a significant gap between aspiration and action. Greg covers some interesting data showing that 48% of people aspire to buy sustainable food and beverage products, but only 15% currently do. He explains that innovators who recognize this gap have an opportunity to build products that better meet consumers' real, tangible desires.

Using plant-based meats to illustrate his point, Greg says that some companies in this arena are creating “these fantastic products that are wonderfully sustainable” but, for example, there’s a disconnect with the packaging on the shelf and creating a message that is resonating with consumers. People want what the product has to offer, from an aspirational standpoint, but in the moment of purchase they aren’t choosing it. In fact, plant-based meat companies in the U.S. are laying off staff. Greg says it isn’t for lack of a good product. It’s more a lack of “understanding the context in which they're engaging their constituents.”

He comments, “So if you want your brand implicitly connected to a person's mind, as the right choice, then you have to build it for the moment that they're in. If you understand that part of the moment, you'll connect better with those aspirations.” He provides a few more examples during our discussion to bring the concept of the aspirational gap to life for listeners.

The episode continues with a deeper exploration into the many reasons why people are not buying what they aspire to buy. Some of the topics we touched on included a lack of communication on the part of the company; how what an individual actually buys can be viewed as a “trade off” they are making for something else (e.g. original choice is not available); and, the obvious one, price.

He concludes the episode with: “We’re emotional creatures at the end of the day. Our goal is innovators should be to really enhance people's lives. And if you want to enhance your life, I [as a brand] need to know what moments need enhancement. And that's really where I think the long and short of the opportunity lies. Look at the context of where they [individual audience members] are, find out where their gaps are and start focusing on that, so that we can make a better world for everybody.”

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think