min read

Innovating to Meet the Needs of Emerging Target Groups

by Lisa Gudding , 23.12.2013

Successful innovations usually combine something familiar with something new to address an emerging need – looking towards the future through the lens of a particular group’s needs, as well as a category as it exists today.

How can we apply this innovation process to “rising” targets or audiences, who are  somewhat unknown to marketers?  Rising target groups vary by type of business, region, and a host of other factors. We may focus on growing ethnic groups within particular countries and regions, such as the MIST countries – Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey. Furthermore, we can target people in certain life stages and situations: ‘Silvers,’ or older consumers; new mothers; the middle class and affluent in Africa; or singles in China. There are also attitudinal audiences available– those with a health and sustainability focus, or people we refer to as “influentials” and ”leading edge consumers.”

Regardless of the group and how it is defined, we must begin by understanding the characteristics of that group – move to define their needs, and finally see what meaningful innovations we might provide.

To innovate successfully, you need a systematic process that is forward looking, explores both inside out and outside in. This creatively translates insights into successful business innovation and requires that we understand our target’s needs very deeply (that’s the “inside out” part). Only then can we marry that understanding to key macro trends, emerging innovation in different categories, and other outside factors that can influence the future.

Good innovations revolve around a framework. Innovation is the promise of a new benefit bundle that brings value. We see waves of benefit activity:

  • Core benefits
  • Further advancement of core benefits
  • Disruption within a category (this is where most market share is stolen)
  • Fusions of core and secondary benefits, and finally
  • New categories or segments that are the truly disruptive innovations and game changers (this is where new categories are built)


In a given client’s category, we map where they are and where they are moving. Then we match their business against the four cornerstone drivers of buying decisions: security, well being, gratification and freedom. That helps us understand lags between what either well-known or emerging consumer segments actually need and the opportunity.

A key output of all of this is a future market map. This gives you the emotional territory, links to benefit dimensions and identifies tipping points of news.. It allows us to know what is needed for each need state and by segment, as well as the intensity of need. Linking it back to needs is really  the key tactic.

Rising target groups, rising needs – innovation examples in the US

  • Waste Managment Bagster: can hold 2+ tons of remodeling waste, but much more convenient and economical than a dumpster. Sold in retail stores with a follow up pick up service.
  • iComfort mattress: Serta’s competitor, Tempur-Pedic, owned over 90% of the local premium mattress market. GfK helped Serta develop iComfort, which uses cooling gel technology to offer a meaningful point of difference and create a brand worth over US$350 million (€262 million) in just two years.
  • Wrigley’s Extra Dessert Delights: the insight here was that chewing gum is often used to help diet. So GfK helped Wrigley create fun, dessert flavors to make sugar free gum like a treat or dessert but without any calories.


Lisa Gudding is EVP of GfK's Consumer Goods. For more information please contact her at lisa.gudding@gfk.com