Q: Your two previous Friday columns on product innovating via deconstruction were the subject of our class discussion on product innovation. We’re a class of graduating marketing majors. We had an unanswered question on the case of Doña Maria Jasponica rice, and we’d like to request help from your column for the right diagnosis and answer.
Our marketing professor said that your book, Segmenting, Self-segmenting and Desegmenting, would classify the Doña Maria Jasponica as a product innovation in an established product category and intended to fill a market segment’s “underserved” as against an “unserved” need. In other words, the market need for a premium rice that has sensory superiority is already being met. But the need is “underserved” in that what’s being served is only on two out of five sensory signatures.
So our question is about a product innovation in an established product category and that’s meant to fill a segment’s “unserved need.” So will you please cite for us such a case and tell us how its process of product innovation can be uncovered by deconstruction?
A: We have such a case. This is Sanuk sandals and shoes. This case was actually our deconstruction subject in our research office. We were looking for a product as a practice and a pretest deconstruction case.
As was true of San Marino Corned Tuna and Doña Maria Jasponica, we started with the gathering and collection of “artifacts.” These artifacts consisted of Sanuk’s Web page, product literature, packaging, advertisements, etc.
Next, we tackled the analysis of the artifacts. For the analysis framework that would make new product development sense out of the gathered artifacts, we started and after satisfactorily applying it, settled with the analysis framework of the Madi questions found in the 2006 book, User-Friendly Marketing Research.
The target market segment that Sanuk was after according to the collected artifacts, were “surfers” in beach and water communities. Jeff Kelly, the Sanuk product innovator was himself “a Huntington beach grom” or bum.
The collected artifacts are most productively analyzed for the product innovation in Sanuk by asking the Madi questions on first, the surfers’ lifestyle, and secondly, on these surfers’ need for footwear. Specifically, the two sets of Madi questions asked must be the following.
First on the surfer lifestyle: “What did you find missing, annoying, disappointing, irritating with your mainstream/corporate life before coming to this beach, water community?”
Second on the surfer footwear need: “What did you find missing, annoying, disappointing, irritating with the sandals/shoes you now have?”
Analyzing the artifacts on the surfers’ lifestyle as though they were answers to the Madi questions yielded the following surfer life attitudes:
“Being happy is what’s it’s about in business and in life.
“That’s why our name is ‘Sanuk,’ the Thai word for the pursuit of happiness.
“Happiness is being free from the clutches of mainstream life, so free to be irreverent, being not very corporate in the office where we have a standing protocol that forgives work tardiness as long as you can be spotted in the morning surf line up from the office.”
Next, analyzing the artifacts on the surfer footwear need came out to these specifications and what one may even consider as “instructions” addressed to the product development group about how to design Sanuk as a product innovation to fill an unserved surfer footwear need:
“Our logo is the little Gumby-like icon we call ‘Happy U’ who is free, lives a simple life, and is now happy.
“That’s why Sanuk sandals and shoes has simplicity of architecture, an unusual sense of color (ugly green) and style, and that Trailer Trash design flair.
“Sanuk, the pursuit of happiness, our name as well as our approach to business and life.”
The key to the final product innovation outcome in this case is how the ProductDev people will translate and execute these “instructions” into the physical, technical and sensory reality that is a “Sanuk” sandal and shoe. But that’s another topic altogether. The foregoing completes our answer to your question about the process by which a product innovation in an established product category meant to fill a segment’s “unserved need” can be realized via deconstruction.