Launching a business selling customized candies was risky and required a series of internal innovation moves by Mars executives.
Great learning for all of us…
By Jessie Scanlon for Bloomberg Businessweek
“There is little reason for an individual to have a computer in their home,” Ken Olsen, the president and founder of the Digital Equipment, famously said in 1977. As Olsen’s quote suggests, predicting demand for new, innovative products and services can be difficult, in part because many of the traditional methods of market testing—using historical data to forecast sales, for instance, or asking customers in a focus group to compare a new product with an existing, competing one—aren’t well-suited to the innovation process.
This was the dilemma that Dan Michael, then R&D director for Mars’ M&Ms brand, faced in 2000. He and his research team at the advanced R&D lab in Hackettstown, N.J., had an idea: to make customizable M&Ms printed with the word or image of a customer’s choosing.
In 2006, Mars’ My M&Ms experiment became a formal business unit called Mars Direct. Famously secretive, the company won’t share sales data, although Meyer, the Northeastern professor, wrote in his 2007 book, The Fast Path to Corporate Growth, that soon after the public launch “sales had surpassed $10 million and continued to accelerate.” The product was launched in Europe in 2007 and will soon be introduced in Australia.
What can executives learn from Mars’ approach to marketing an innovative product? read on…