As a breakfast and baked items firm, innovation in my business sometimes comes within the type of launching a brand new taste or a line extension to a product we already supply. However, when my crew noticed the #pancakecereal development taking TikTok by storm through the top of the pandemic, we felt we needed to get in on the motion—in a approach which may change how our firm thinks about innovation endlessly.

We may have give you intelligent social media movies of our personal to try to seize even a number of the 1.7 billion views on the viral hashtag, possibly placing our slightly-too-large bite-sized pancakes in a bowl with milk. If we did it properly with a wise TikTok strategy behind it, we in all probability would have seen stable advertising outcomes, be it a progress in followers or a bump in gross sales.

However we noticed a chance to do one thing much more impactful: create and promote a model of pancake cereal ourselves. Eighteen months later in February 2023, we launched Pancake Cereal as an unique and limited-time product with Goal—and the product, excuse the pun, offered like hotcakes and acquired our model an estimated 870 million impressions. We additionally introduced it with us to Expo West (a significant convention within the CPG house) that yr, and had a lot curiosity from patrons that we’re contemplating beginning a wholly new class for our model.

Right here’s why this launch was so game-changing for us, and extra importantly, how this expertise has shifted how we take into consideration product growth shifting ahead.

We ensured the product was really aligned with our model

I don’t suppose we may have created a product based mostly on any social media meals development and been this profitable. We had to verify the thought was aligned with our model values and what our goal buyer has come to count on from us.

What we noticed from the development is that it was taking folks hours to make these tiny pancakes for only one bowl that was eaten inside minutes. That folks liked pancake cereal in principle—the style and the expertise of consuming it—however stated there was no approach they had been whipping up a batch day-after-day, possibly not even ever once more. That busy dad and mom specifically (who’re one in all our core clients) had youngsters begging them for pancake cereal for breakfast however may by no means muster up the hassle to make it occur.

The Belgian Boys mission is to ship baked items which are fast, simple, and handy (and, after all, scrumptious)—merchandise that give a made-from-scratch taste with out requiring all the hassle. So, with the ability to supply this deal with that folks had been loving however in a extra seamless, environment friendly approach felt fully consistent with our model, and is why this product had the facility to dwell on even after the preliminary development died down.

On the flip facet, we had to verify we may ship a product that was aligned with the development. If we had rapidly cranked out a product that was disappointing—that was too large to take pleasure in from a spoon or didn’t have the feel of recent pancakes—it wouldn’t have taken off in the best way it did. It was an uphill battle for the R&D crew, but it surely was extra vital to me to take the time to create a product that represented the standard of our model than to chop corners to get it performed sooner.

Shoppers are savvy. In the event that they suppose you’re attempting to reap the benefits of a development for a PR win or money seize, the product gained’t have a real affect. Growing a profitable product based mostly on social listening is rather like creating some other form of product: You need to perceive what you’re fixing, and ensure your model is well-equipped to unravel it.

We did the legwork to determine if the thought was ridiculous, or ridiculously good

With an idea this distinctive, we didn’t need to go full-steam forward with out intestine checking ourselves first. So, as a substitute of protecting the thought prime secret, we talked to anybody and everybody we knew to see what they thought.

We’re a small crew, so we didn’t have the bandwidth to do in depth customer research, however we had everybody ask their buddies and households about whether or not they could be excited a few pancake cereal product. We additionally chatted with business friends to see if that they had any suggestions or if they may spot any main points we had been lacking.

Maybe most significantly, although, we went to our retail companions with the thought to see what they thought. There have been positively a number of retailers who thought the product class was too unfamiliar to enchantment to their clients or who felt it was an excessive amount of of a danger. Our purchaser at Goal, nonetheless, was excited in regards to the viewers we had been interesting to, thought the distinctive product may enchantment to clients, and was prepared to take the danger for the potential of a significant reward.

Having this buy-in from the beginning helped us confirm our idea, diminished the danger for our model, and in addition gave us an unimaginable companion who may assist us make selections as we navigated the method of creating a brand new providing. I liked ideating with our purchaser on which product mockups they thought had been strongest and dealing with Goal’s advertising crew on messaging and launch technique, and I do know their deep business experience made the product stronger. We didn’t do every thing they prompt—we needed to make the selections that greatest aligned with our model—however receiving suggestions from the individuals who could be serving to us promote this was so precious.

We labored with influencers to recreate buzz

By the point we had been able to launch, the preliminary development had fizzled a bit. As an alternative of attempting to fully restart the development ourselves, we leaned into getting assist from people who had tried their hand at pancake cereal the primary time round.

Influencer marketing was a key participant in our Pancake Cereal launch, which added important publicity to our total marketing campaign. We labored with over 60 influencers, specializing in those that had tried the unique development, with a mixture of paid partnerships and earned media from distributing PR containers with free cereal to attempt. We went all out to make our model stand out with these containers: the field itself was fridge-shaped to emphasise that our product is much out of your extraordinary dry cereal, we packed it with a Belgian Boys-branded cereal bowl and spoon, and the copy was chock-full of our signature breakfast humor. We wished to make sure that any promotion not solely helped promote Pancake Cereal, however launched new audiences to our model as a complete.

We amassed over 1.25 million impressions and engagements from the influencer-generated content material. As a result of this product was offered in shops, fairly than on to shoppers, we do not have entry to the information on gross sales pushed by the marketing campaign or the extent of renewed vitality generated, however the metrics we tracked point out that our influencer advertising technique was profitable in creating buzz, elevating consciousness, and producing substantial engagement for our product.

We’re all the time in search of new methods to hearken to our clients

After listening to this story, individuals are stunned to be taught that we’re not on social media day-after-day attempting to trace down the subsequent development we are able to leap on. However I believe dashing to commercialize one other viral baked good solely as a result of this one labored so properly could be inauthentic.

As an alternative, what I take away from this expertise is that inspiration for brand new merchandise can and will come from all over the place—and it ought to all the time be rooted in what your buyer is saying. What are they speaking about on social media? What are your mates who’re in your audience saying to you over dinner? What merchandise are they enthusiastic about proper now, and which of them are they ignoring?

There are such a lot of methods right this moment that clients can inform manufacturers what they’re considering, what they’re enthusiastic about, and what issues they’re dealing with. We as firm leaders merely need to widen our horizons on how we’re listening.

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