From tikka masala macaroni and cheese to garlic-kimchi pizza, “Frankenstein” food combinations are all the rage. But new takes on old dishes are just one example of the cultural blending that today’s consumers crave.
Blended products are built on a simple idea: To make a good idea even better, combine it with another good idea. From food to furniture to technology, blending adds an intriguing newness to products in crowded marketplaces. For the entrepreneurially minded who are willing to challenge the status quo, blending can be a valuable way to capitalize on consumer trends.
Think about the fundamental questions that brought about some of the biggest blends in recent memory. Why can’t I use an app to match a rider with an independent driver for a better experience? Why can’t I connect travelers with hosts for a more authentic stay? Why can’t I make a ground-breaking taco with a Doritos shell?
Whether you’re trying to enhance an existing product or service or come up with an new customer experience, use these three strategies to create the perfect cocktail:
1. Stop thinking you can’t have it all.
Tesla is rocking the boat in the automobile industry by checking more boxes than most manufacturers or customers thought were possible. The brand blends many desired qualities: inexpensive (relatively), stylish, eco-friendly, and high-performance.
To create a luxurious feel without charging a premium price, Tesla had to innovate. Instead of leather, the interior is the company’s own proprietary material, and an app now starts engines. Most combustion vehicles achieve eco-friendly status by jacking up the price and sacrificing horsepower, but the Model 3 has a top speed of 140 mph and leaps from zero to 60 mph in just over five seconds. Instead of forcing customers to compromise, Tesla figured out how to give them exactly what they want.
2. Make the best of sour grapes.
I mean this figuratively, of course — unless you have a vineyard. Winemaker Dave Phinney wanted to make use of a tank of failed wine by blending it into something delicious. Now, the popular beverage’s production exceeds 200,000 cases per year and is an industry standard.
Blending wine is one of the hottest trends in the industry, and vineyards find it liberating. Winery location no longer matters like it once did, and the blending technique helps protect winemakers against a bad harvest. On the other hand, customers enjoy the taste of blended wines, as well as the increase in variety that it affords — and it all started out of a willingness to use past failures as an opportunity to try something new.
Test your blend with a focus group.
Let’s go back to those innovative tacos. Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell have been a resounding success, with 100 million sold in the first 10 weeks. The reality, however, is that the current blend wasn’t the first iteration.
Initially, the company tried sprinkling some Doritos nacho-cheese flavoring on their own corn taco shells. While focus groups loved the idea, they knew they weren’t crunching into an authentic Doritos experience.
That’s why when you go to Taco Bell today, you’ll get that real Doritos shell the focus groups craved. Look around, and you’ll notice that the advertising constantly reminds you of this by featuring the original Doritos chips and packaging. By testing the taco before rolling it out, Taco Bell created an even tastier product.
Blending is a mindset, and you’ll have to endure experiments that tank while searching for successful ones. Avoid the urge to combine everything. Not everything will lock into place like a nacho-cheese chip and a taco.
Above all, keep the customer experience at the heart of your innovation strategy. Listen to your market, and who knows? You might just do the Doritos Locos Taco one better.
Darshan Mehta is the founder and CEO of iResearch, an online insights platform that enables companies to quickly, easily, and affordably extract insights from consumers or employees worldwide. Drawing upon more than 20 years of marketing strategy and research design experience, Mehta is authoring a book, “Getting to Aha! Today’s Insights Are Tomorrow’s Facts,” to help business leaders understand and leverage changing consumer preferences.