Affinnova, Evolver of Consumer Products, Evolves Itself

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a somber black package that emphasized the product’s roots in professional kitchens. And when the company tested that design against an existing product from Pledge, 34 percent of consumers said they’d take home the hypothetical Affinnova brand, while 49 percent said they’d buy the Pledge product.

“I’m thrilled with that outcome,” says Lamoureux. “It means I got 70 percent of Pledge’s market share without doing any advertising. Pledge has 50 years of brand-building behind it, and I made up this product three months ago.”

But as powerful as evolutionary tools have become, there’s still a problem: companies aren’t hiring Affinnova until near the end of their product development process, when they have a few solid concepts that they’ve already run through a painstaking process called “monadic” testing. So Affinnova’s second initiative is an effort to get product designers using its services earlier—after the “ideation” stage, but before monadic testing.

Monadic testing companies take concepts for new products or packages and show them to consumers, then score their reactions and compare those scores to historical databases. Concepts that reach a certain benchmark—scoring, say, in the top 50 percent of all products ever tested—can go forward in the development process. Monadic testing is a well-established art, with more than a decade’s worth of product scores stacking up in databases, so companies aren’t going to skip it. But “right now we have to wait around for this process to end, for the concept to be identified, before we can help with all the other stuff,” Lamoureux explains. “It’s irregular business, because we’re waiting for something to come over the wall. From our business perspective, there would be a strategic advantage to being at the beginning of the process, to help them get more ideas over the wall.”

That’s the role Affinnova envisions for a new service called Power Screener. It’s a quick-and-dirty version of the company’s trademark evolutionary optimization process, intended to help companies pre-screen variations on their basic product concepts before they send them for monadic testing.

Affinnova is marketing the tool as a time- and money-saver. “Every time you do a monadic test, it costs $7,000 and takes two months,” says Lamoureux. “On average it takes 25 monadic tests to find one concept that meets your benchmarks. That’s $175,000 to get one concept that works. With our system, you can go through Power Screen for $15,000 and get two to five top concepts that you can then present for monadics, so you are at a total cost of $60,000. For the Procter & Gambles of the world, that can save you millions. And by eliminating the wait [for repeated monadic tests] you can cut months out of your whole go-to-market strategy.”

Lamoureux says the company is putting the finishing touches on Power Screener right now and will start selling service this fall. If it’s successful, it could help companies bring new brands to market even faster, and give each one a better chance of succeeding. But there’s one thing manufacturers will always have to do for themselves, says Lamoureux: make decent products that actually improve consumers’ lives.

“A better package can increase your trial potential, and to the degree that the package and the message and the concept help, we can maximize that; we can put the best lipstick on the pig,” Lamoureux says. “But if the product stinks, it’s still going to fail in the marketplace.”

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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2 responses to “Affinnova, Evolver of Consumer Products, Evolves Itself”

  1. Bernd Schmigotzki says:

    Good idea to create such a company with great future.