Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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‘How CDO came up with San Marino Corned Tuna’

Q: We heard that you (the Senior MRx-er) once spoke in a marketing conference where you shared how your research helped CDO discover an amazing product innovation.

That product innovation is no other than the San Marino Corned Tuna.

We’re a medium-sized company in the meat and fish canning industry.  Product innovation is particularly critical to growing our business. Our CEO keeps reminding us that in the long run, product innovation is also key to our very survival. Those of us in our industry are always on the lookout for novel product innovation research that in itself is also an innovation.


We and our industry colleagues did not attend that conference where you spoke about your San Marino Corned Tuna research. Sharing product innovating processes and methods is not an industry practice, and so we cannot expect CDO to reveal to us their process and method in discovering new products. But it must be different with research to support that discovery. Anyway, will you please share with us in your column your San Marino Corned Tuna research?

A: We decided to respond to your request first to correct a word-of-mouth communication error. We did not have a research that “helped CDO discover … the product innovation … in San Marino Corned Tuna.” Your source heard wrong.

Our presentation was about an inexpensive data analysis technique we invented. The technique can accurately uncover in 8 to 9 cases out of 10, how a competitor was able to come out with a successful product innovation. Having uncovered this “secret,” you can then of course imitate.

This will enable you to match your competitor’s move. Depending on how quickly the “secret” is uncovered, you can then shorten the duration of the competitive advantage from your rival’s product innovation. But more importantly, you can apply the uncovered technique to subsequently advance your own product innovating process. That’s effectively a method of turning your competitive disadvantage into your own competitive advantage.

In broad strokes, here’s how the technique worked in the case of CDO’s San Marino Corned Tuna.

The first step consists in gathering what archaeologists call “artifacts” of the case. Artifacts are basically materials that you can analyze so that you can piece together what could have or even what should have happened. In this case, those artifacts included San Marino’s product literature, advertisements, Web Page, the speech of the CDO president when she accepted the award for entrepreneur of the year, corporate blogs, FB postings, talk-show interviews and the like.

At this point, it’s useful to distinguish this technique from the more popular “reverse engineering” method, which is after duplicating the original product after tearing it apart and analyzing the functions of the parts. Our technique is not after duplicating a product. It’s after uncovering a process, the product-innovating process.

The next step is to analyze those artifacts to answer these four questions.


First is: “Who are the two or three behavioral market segments that the process was trying to understand?” Note that it’s plural, namely, segments and not one target segment. The end in view of the segmentation analysis is that single target market segment. Also, note that it’s behavioral segments and not demographic or socio-economic segments. In this case, by behavioral segments is meant the fish-eating segment, the meat-eating segment and the veggie-eating segment.

Secondly, for the consumers of each of the two or three behavioral segments, ask: “What did you use to eat before or what were you fond of eating before?” The most likely answers are predictable. For example, the fish eater may say “meat,” and the meat eater may say “beef but now pork alternating with fish.” The vegetarian may say “grilled veggie but now fresh raw veggie.”

The next question is asked to socio-demographically profile each of the two or three behavioral segments. For example, the fish eater who said he used to eat meat before when asked about his demographics may say that he’s in his 50s, a hypertensive, and almost exclusively on a meat diet before.

Finally, the crucial question from whose answers can be harvested the product-innovation leads and ideas with the right analysis. In the case of San Marino, that analysis yielded the product concept of corned tuna.

The foregoing analysis technique has solid scientific grounding. It combines archaeology for its data (or artifact) gathering with “deconstruction” and consumer insighting for its analysis.

“Deconstruction” is a semiotic analysis variant pioneered by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida and explained in his 1967 work, “Of Grammatology.”

Consumer insighting is our own creation, which we’ve defined as an analytical technique for uncovering product innovations from “seeing what everyone has seen but thinking what nobody has thought.” This will be the next book of the Senior MRx-er.

We said at the start that the foregoing explanation is in “broad strokes.” Its practical details of design and execution are with Brand Ideas Inc. (BII), an up-and-coming branding and advertising agency to whom we’ve licensed the technique some three years ago. BII has helped three to four of its client accounts with the research technique in successful product innovating. If you’re interested, you may contact BII.

Keep your questions coming. Send them to us at or God bless!

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