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The inspiration for innovation

Product innovation is often driven by being unable to find a solution for a specific need. Two innovators discuss their inspiration and methods to continue innovating.
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There’s no question innovation is a driver in retail. New, innovative products drive sales by drawing shoppers to a store — and sometimes a category — that they may not have shopped before.

In the consumer packaged goods industry, and now specifically the HBW segment, Craig Dubitsky’s name is synonymous with innovation. As current chief innovation strategist at Colgate-Palmolive and founder of Hello, co-founder of eos products, and a key advisor to other trailblazing products such as Method Products and Seventh Generation, he has built a legacy of creating pioneering products. Innovation is born from inspiration, and Dubitsky stated, “Inspiration starts with having an open mind. It’s hard to be inspired if you’re not even willing to open yourself up and question everything.”

Dubitsky continued, “You have to be really comfortable with the unknown; I don’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), I only have what I call FONT — fear of not trying. Because I think if you don’t try, you’ve already failed.”

Dubitsky underlined that inspiration for most innovation comes from a desire to solve an unmet need. This is true for Craig Romero, co-founder of Digital Beauty Group. Digital Beauty Group’s Admire My Skin brand grew out of a skin issue his wife struggled with, melasma, and was looking to solve with an over-the-counter product rather than a prescription. Romero, who previously owned a software company that monitored consumer data trends, used that expertise to analyze consumer data to find that his wife wasn’t alone and there was indeed a white space to be filled.

[Read More: Using data to monitor trends, consumer behavior and inventory]

admire my skin group

After launching the Admire My Skin Ultra Potent Brightening Serum to address hyperpigmentation associated with melasma, the need for complementary products was obvious. Romero said, “We knew we needed complementary products to help keep the skin healthy, so we started there.”

After that initial trio of products were introduced as a regimen for melasma, Romero went back to data to find other conditions consumers needed to treat as well as ingredients they were seeking. "Always using data as a means to vet an idea ensures we are launching a product consumers are actively looking for and need.”

The process is the same for Romero’s second brand under Digital Beauty Group, Seoul Ceuticals. Romero says they always look to the data as they consider new brands, and in fact will be launching two new brands under the Digital Beauty Group umbrella in the near future.

Dubitsky’s inspiration for Hello literally occurred as he was at shelf in the oral care section of a large chain drug store. It was pictures of extracted teeth on a number of products that struck him first.  “These products are supposed to help keep teeth in place, it seemed contradictory that extracted teeth were such a prominent part of packaging,” Dubitsky stated. Then he looked at ingredients and was surprised to see one in particular that had been banned for use in hand soap. “It was all coming together in seconds: the whole category seemed to be about fear and shame, and I thought it should be about smiling, good health, and it should be fresh and fun. There was nothing fun, everything seemed to be playing up fear and was all so unfriendly.” Dubitsky said the friendliest word he could think of was, “hello,” and he trademarked that first.

[Read More: Love and makeup in kindness]

Dubitsky found inspiration in personal user experience as well as data related to ingredients when he co-founded eos. First, he noticed the size of his wife’s purse and likewise the size of bags other women commonly carried and wondered how they could find anything in them, let alone a small tube of lip balm. Then he was shocked when he saw data about the amount of petrochemicals the average woman ingested from her lip balm and lipstick. “I thought we could make something that was beautiful and findable, and that didn’t include petrochemicals…and that became eos,” Dubitsky said. In many instances, Dubitsky says it’s something that’s bothersome that is motivation to find an alternative or create one.

When it comes to how to continue to innovate, Dubitsky says he is always writing, drawing, sketching, observing behaviors, and looking at all sorts of unrelated categories, and he empowers his team to do the same. Romero not only finds further inspiration in data, he also looks to social media to see how customers are documenting their results and sometimes using products in an unexpected way. “Our customers post videos of themselves using the products and there have been instances where they are using it in ways we hadn’t thought of. It’s great to see them getting creative in how they use it and continuing to get great results.”

HRG has always advocated that new products are the lifeblood of retail. The new launches that fill an unmet consumer need are the ones that will have a long product life cycle.

Megan Moyer is HRGs corporate marketing manager. HRG is in the details of retail, working with product manufacturers, distributors, retailers, technology partners, and other industry organizations to provide data & analysis, shopper experience, brand development, fixture coordination, and retail communications solutions. HRG reviews new health, beauty, and wellness (HBW) items every month and assesses their potential for longevity in the monthly Products to Watch feature in Drug Store News as well as the annual Future 50 list. HRG works with Colgate-Palmolive and Digital Beauty Group providing various brand-building programs and space management projects.

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