Bringing a new product to market is a difficult process. Thirty thousand new packaged consumer products are launched every year, and 95% of them fail.
Not only do you need a fantastic idea and a USP, but you also need to make lots of other decisions – about design, manufacturing, marketing, logistics, and any number of other processes. In order to be successful, you have to get them all right – plenty of great ideas never became successful products due to mistakes made in the process of making them a reality!
But what if you could use artificial intelligence (AI) to help you make those critical decisions? By using data and machine learning to inform every decision, from product development to sales and marketing, less is left to chance or "gut instinct."
This was the thinking adopted by one powerhouse couple – NYT best-selling author and life coach Jay Shetty and his wife, Ayurvedic chef Radhi Devlukia-Shetty, when they launched their new tea brand, Sama, in September this year.
Sama – meaning “fully balanced” in Sanskrit, is marketed as a lifestyle drink – designed to fit the lives of the influencer couple’s audience, who follow their interest in vegan and Ayurvedic lifestyles, self-improvement, mindfulness, and wellbeing. The blends have names like "Awaken and Energise," "Protect and Support," and "Calm and Relax." And the illustration and design work that accompanies them shows serene imagery capturing scenes of togetherness and relaxation.
None of this is by accident or simple gut feeling that it would be the right way to appeal to their customer base. The couple worked hand-in-hand with AI branding experts 100.co to ensure every decision was based on data and as little as possible was left to chance. The thinking was that this would be the best way to make sure Sama would be among the 5% of product launches that go on to be a success.
100.co co-founder Kim Perell told me, "They had a vision for something special to them, something very authentic which we think is important for any brand.
“From there, we used AI to help better understand the market, the data signals across that market, across social, retail … and understand where we can use data to differentiate our product … in terms of flavor, the packaging … that's what's really been an interesting opportunity for us."
Part of what made the challenge so interesting was the need to take a data-driven approach while still creating a product that's "authentic" – in-line with Jay and Radhi’s vision of what they wanted to create, as well as their own unique personalities.
For example, while the couple initially started out by thinking about flavors, insights from the data told them that their audience was more likely to be attracted by the “adaptogenic” properties of the tea – their potential to reduce stress, invoke feelings of calmness or clarity, or offer other homeopathic benefits. Due to this, these effects were given greater prominence on the packaging and marketing materials, and the flavors themselves (which were also informed by data) were made less prominent. Virtually every other element of the finished product – including the pricing – was also informed by AI analytics carried out using 100.co’s CLAIRE platform.
With AI increasingly impacting more and more areas of business and our day-to-day lives, it’s likely we will see this methodology used more frequently by both start-ups and, inevitably, established producers of consumer packaged goods. Traditionally, these types of decisions would be informed by a program of focus group sessions, with products then brought to market based entirely on the data generated by a small sample of the potential customer base. Today, with social media analytics and sentiment analysis, millions of more data points can be fed into the mix after being collected and analyzed in an automated manner. The potential here is that this will lead to a far higher “hit rate” when it comes to launching successful new products. This will hopefully mean more products we actually want to buy make it to market, and at better prices, due to the efficiency gains and reduced cost.
Philip Smolen, 100.co’s chief platform officer, told me a little bit more about the technology behind the process. He says, “Data [and AI] are easy words to toss around … we’ve got many years of experience working with marketing intelligence platforms that only inform advertising … we really wanted to bring that intelligence further upstream into the product development process.
“We take several major data sets, retail sales data, what’s being sold in the market, product data … not only the products available for purchase but what are the ingredients for those products, how are they packaged, how are they priced, what are their claims … then one of the key things we do that is pretty unique is tie that together with social data, what are people saying, what are the reviews, what is the sentiment?
“Then we take toolsets like machine learning, assisted learning, natural language processing … in order to look at not just what is selling, and what is trending, but why it’s trending.”
It's an innovative approach that brings AI-powered analytics to the whole product development process. When faced with the challenge of creating and selling products for today’s digital-first, highly fragmented audiences, it’s clear new approaches to consumer engagement are needed. And the innovative strategies for doing this don’t end when the tea is sold – Sama plans to organize and host live “tea break” events, where fans are invited to join them for a virtual discussion-focused tea party via Instagram or Facebook Live – further reinforcing the idea of the product as an “experience” that fits into their customers’ lives.
As Devlukia-Shetty told me when we discussed it recently, “Tea allows us to slow down and have a moment to think, so the tea parties are an extension of that … helping people to have a holistic view, not just giving them tea and saying it’s going to solve your problems … it will be fun but also hopefully help people really enhance their lives.”
You can click here to watch my webinar with Sama co-founder Radhi Devlukia-Shetty as well as Kim Perell, Philip Smolin, and James Brennan of 100.co