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Here is the first 2013 blog post from Woody Bendle. It’s a fun personal, yet still very economically sound blog post that’s worth its salt when it comes to . . . creative innovation with salt! Here’s Woody:

 

Think You’ve Got Creative Challenges?

Ideas for new articles on creative innovation sometimes come at the strangest times and in the oddest ways.

As I was mixing up a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for the holidays, I went into the pantry to get the various ingredients and did a double take as I grabbed for the salt.  I had to choose from four different types of salt.  I mean come on. . . do we really have four different types of salt in this house?  Salt is salt . . . right?  Well, yes . . . and no.

Morton-SaltWe have the standard Morton’s salt (95¢) and then we had the Morton’s light salt ($2.39) and then we had the Morton’s coarse sea salt ($2.50) and then we had this special rock salt that you grind in a “salt mill.”  Yep… a salt mill (priceless).

As someone who is nearly always thinking about creative innovation, I had to chuckle.  Just look at all of these different salts.  They’ve literally innovated SALT!  Of all things . . . SALT!  Good old NaCl!

Not as amused as I was?

OK, I have to let you in on this inside joke.  I’m also an economist; and table salt is often used as a classic example of a commodity that has nearly perfectly elastic demand.  That means there isn’t much you can do through pricing and promotion to change the amount of ordinary table salt purchased by consumers.  Think about it this way; if your neighborhood grocery store ran a 1¢ special on salt tomorrow, would you rush out and fill up a grocery cart with it?  No?  Why not?  It’s nearly free! Who wouldn’t want tons of nearly free table salt?

Thing is, one can only use so much salt, and there in lies the rub (pun intended).  The demand for your ordinary, run of the mill, table salt is pretty stable and fairly finite.

So, if you find yourself in this type of a situation – meaning you are finding it increasingly difficult to affect demand through pricing and promotions – what can you do through creative innovation to grow your business?

Let me provide you with the perspective of another economist:

“The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates.”  – Joseph A. Schumpeter

In economics, what Schumpeter is talking about is considered non-price determinants of demand.  The rest of the world calls this innovation(which sounds a whole lot better than “non-price demand determinants”).

Let’s Try Creative Innovation with Salt!

CommodityLet’s assume that your business is actually making and selling salt.  What the heck can you do to innovate salt? It’s just salt!  Right?

For starters, let’s step back and think about what it is that we as an organization do, and what we might be able to innovate.

Innovation isn’t just about making a new product; far from it.  In fact, an innovation will have a greater chance of succeeding if you adopt a broader notion of what can be innovated.  Aside from innovating the product (i.e., lower sodium, coarse sea salt, etc.), we might be able develop a creative innovation on:

  • Some of our core manufacturing processes.
  • Our packaging or salt storage / delivery devices.
  • A new mutually beneficial alliance with Oscar Mayer (new apple wood smoked bacon flavored salt).
  • Our business model (i.e., online subscription to our gourmet salt connoisseur’s club – a new artisanal salt each month from some exotic locale on our planet – or maybe even other planets!)

The point being that when you find growth has stalled, perhaps as a result of your market maturing, you have to do something very different in order to create growth.    You have to innovate.  And, this something different doesn’t always have to be all about the product itself.

Look, if they can successfully come up with a creative innovation for salt, what’s your excuse!?

Get innovating! Woody Bendle

 

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  • http://www.hustleorbust.com/ Mark Olivito

    Classic CPG innovation, a twist on a basic!  Tried and true formula indeed!

  • http://twitter.com/innovationator Charlie Garland

    Woody – great, great post.  Yes, I was similarly amused by this observation.  Partly because I studied chemistry in college, and to this day still find the principles of this science extraordinarily insightful with regard to innovation (or, at least, the way I conceptualize it).

    I’m going to put the bulk of my commentary back into the LinkedIn group (“Board of Innovation”), which is what guided me here, but wanted to also give you a big thumbs-up for identifying the innovation potential of something that is so incredibly simple (and, in “conventional wisdom’s” p.o.v., “un-innovatable”! :)