By John Burns, Ph.D.
It’s late October, and with it comes the ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies, and other scary characters that put the horror in the Halloween season.
What does Halloween horror have to do with new product development and innovation? For many companies, innovation is just as scary as any horror movie about the zombie apocalypse or a murderous psychopath wearing a hockey goalie mask.
Take the news about the Airbus A380 passenger jet. Introduced in 2007, the A380 can carry more than 800 passengers on long-haul flights to major cities around the world. Despite billions of dollars in investment by Airbus, they’ve sold only about 25 percent of their projected sales quota from when the plane was first introduced. Moreover, after only about a decade in service, customers such as Singapore Airlines are decommissioning their A380s because they can’t fill them with passengers.
With a multi-billion-dollar failed investment, it’s a horror story if ever there was one.
Why did it happen? One reason is that the A380 does not meet important customer needs for choice and flexibility in airline travel. With the A380, airlines put more passengers on a large plane and run fewer flights. Rather than four flights a day, for example, you put more passengers on a plane and one or two flights a day. However, it turns out that passengers don’t want fewer flights on large aircraft. Instead, they want more frequent flights to match their travel schedules. Fewer flights with more passengers on planes like the A380 mean greater efficiency and company profits for Airbus and the airlines. But passengers aren’t interested in the financial needs of Airbus, Singapore Air, or any other airplane manufacturer or airline. Airbus and their customers ignored customer needs and paid a heavy price.
Think it can’t happen to you? That’s what the victims in horror movies think, too. But these failures can and do happen to companies just like yours all the time. Your customers are no different than the airline passengers in the Airbus story. Customers pay you because your products and services meet their needs, and you ignore this at your own peril.
Fortunately, a better way exists. For 30 years, Applied Marketing Science has helped companies develop successful new products using our scientifically proven approach to identifying and prioritizing customer needs. You can read about it in the article, “The Voice of the Customer,” co-authored by Applied Marketing Science co-founder, John Hauser.  In this article, the authors test various methods for conducting research to uncover customer needs for innovation. A set of best practices emerge, and it’s these practices we’ve been using to help companies succeed at innovation ever since. Take a look at our website for more information on the trainings and research services we provide.
Launching successful new products is scary, but you don’t have to become the victim in an innovation horror story. A better way exists. By conducting Voice of the Customer research up front, you can identify the customer needs you should focus on. Then, you can develop products that meet those needs. Your new product development and innovation process will become far less scary, and you’ll achieve far more success for you and your company.
 Dan Reed, “With The First A380 On The Scrapheap After Just 11 Years Airbus’ Bad Bet Now Is Painfully Obvious,” Forbes October 16, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2018/10/16/with-the-first-a380-on-the-scrapheap-after-just-11-years-airbus-bad-bet-can-now-is-obvious/#1ee0a28c8a51)
 Abbie Griffin and John R. Hauser, “The Voice of the Customer,” Marketing Science (Winter 1993).