Staff Writer
Oct 11, 2021

Unchained: Disruptive innovation and the next normal for CPG companies

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and new consumer behaviours play out, brands are remodelling their strategic ecosystems for the next normal. Dole Ventures and Fireside Ventures share their insights on how marketers can transform the norms, habits and beliefs in their industry in a discussion moderated by Campaign’s Gemma Charles and Facebook’s Tawana Murphy Burnett.

The fourth installment from Pioneers | Conversations on our Industry’s Future features Barbara Guerpillon, global head of Dole Ventures, Dole Sunshine Company and Vinay Singh, partner, Fireside Ventures, moderated by Gemma Charles, deputy editor, Campaign UK and Tawana Murphy Burnett, director, global client & categories at Facebook.

Disruptive CPG brands in APAC have come to terms with new patterns in the consumer landscape by reimagining their respective categories.

They have met the challenge of doing business during the pandemic by tracking consumer trends and competitor moves, experimenting with risk and business models, increasing profitability and efficiency, setting goals, and participating in partnership programmes.

As a result, companies of all sizes are facing a new level of competition.

There is the common notion that disruptors are an excited bunch of entrepreneurs, living day by day and making all these fantastic decisions at a whim. The truth is, successful disruptors set clear goals, have clear plans and ensure they-and the rest of the team-follow through.

To help understand how brands can incorporate elements of disruptive innovation to fuel future growth, here are highlights from the fourth installment from Pioneers | Conversations on our Industry’s Future — Disruptor DNA, featuring Barbara Guerpillon, global head of Dole Ventures, Dole Sunshine Company and Vinay Singh, partner, Fireside Ventures, moderated by Gemma Charles, deputy editor, Campaign UK and Tawana Murphy Burnett, director, global client & categories at Facebook.

Asking the key questions about your customers

One of the key changes in the consumer landscape since the pandemic began is the desire of digitally-savvy millennials, with higher spending abilities across geographies, for insightful, relevant products or services.

Yet, one shouldn’t rush to be at the cutting-edge of technology just for the sake of being at the cutting-edge of technology.

As Dole Ventures, Dole Sunshine Company’s Barbara Guerpillon emphasises, a more effective starting point might be to ask, “What do people really need? What is required for your business to succeed?”

Only after that could companies begin to rethink their processes, including the way they engage with their customers.

“Initially, established brands and marketeers from companies such as Unilever, Dole, Nestlé and the like found this very disruptive,” says Guerpillon, “but disruptive brands like India’s social commerce platform Meesho or Indonesia’s largest online marketplace Tokopedia taught them how they need to engage with consumers. When they see an opportunity, disruptive brands don’t hesitate to jump in and take action; they have changed the whole dynamic of marketing.”

The disruptive mindset?

One thing disruptors emphasise is the constant and strategic communication they have with their customers. The business cycle isn’t simply about launching a product, getting customer feedback and using that to inform the next product launch. These steps are often happening at the same time. So you get this ever-iterative process where you are constantly getting insights from your community of customers.

According to Singh, consumer feedback and insights should become an engaged part of product development and improvement, not being treated as a separate piece of the puzzle. 

At Fireside Ventures, where Vinay Singh leads a team of marketers, strategists, and investors who mentor a portfolio of 22 consumer startups ranging from teas to toys, and shaving cream to samosas.

Singh says these startups represent a shift away from mass-manufactured, preservative-packed, one-size-fits-all products. “This new wave of online brands is deeply relevant, always accessible, more authentic, more responsible, and fast-moving,” he says.

He cites Gynoveda as an example of successful online brand building based on a business model that emphasises customisation and personalisation. “Gynoveda, which treats menstrual disorders with natural remedies, engages in a direct-to-consumer marketing approach with their customers; one of the keys to its success is that it treats customers as individual people with unique wants and expectations,” he says.

Letting go of that perfectionist mindset

The first step to engaging with this disruptive mindset is to let go of the perfectionist mindset. As Guerpillon notes, perhaps something ‘truly disruptive’ for bigger companies is to release a “minimum viable product” into the community, get feedback and improve it.

Not only is it important to let go of the 'polish, laminate, frame and release' mindset, it's also important to recognise that mistakes will be allowed, forgiven, and welcome, as long as companies and marketers embrace these as feedback for improvement, and act on them.

Guerpillion also notes the benefits of directly embedding starts-up in the product development process.

“In February 2021, we launched the Sunshine for All Investment Fund, where we work with innovators, start-ups and progressive partners to develop pilots to accelerate new technology and product innovations,” she notes. “This is just the beginning of the journey but already there’s a lot happening as we move toward our goals in nutrition, sustainability and the creation of shared value.”

Pioneers | Conversations on our Industry’s Future is a thought leadership series brought to you by Campaign and Facebook, exploring emerging trends and cutting-edge insights on the changes that will shape the future of the marketing and advertising industry for years to come.   

Never miss a Pioneers conversation. Click here to register your interest in the series.  

Catch the previous Pioneers conversations:

Can dentsu and Nestle tip sustainability into the mainstream?

The rise of the Asian Unicorns: Tokopedia and Meesho

Benedict Evans: It’s 20 to 25 trillion dollars of [ad] spend and no one really knows what’s going to happen next

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