Tag Archives: innovation

The World Needs a Better Toilet

In the United States we seldom think about the importance of toilets. Good hygiene and working sewage is just something that the average citizen assumes will always be there, and always work. However, this is not true for the rest of the world where hygiene is a critical health and wellness issue.

More than half of the world’s population – roughly 4.5 billion people – live without access to toilets and the safe sanitation they provide. Estimates are that globally, unsafe sanitation costs the world’s population $223 billion (yes, billion) a year in higher health care costs, lost productivity, and lost wages. It is an issue that The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is taking very seriously, pledging $200 million over the past seven years to help reinvent toilets, and pledging another $200 million more to get companies to understand the problem – and business –  of human waste.

At the Reinvented Toilet Expo, held last fall in Beijing, companies showcased new toilets that could recycle water, separate urine from other waste, and even with solar roofs. Mr. Gates told the audience that human waste contains 200 trillion rotavirus particles, 100,000 parasitic worm eggs, and other harmful organisms.

This might not be an easy subject to discuss, and a lot of bad jokes will undoubtable be told in class, but it is an issue that affects the world, and one that product innovation can help to solve.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the business of waste, sanitation, and fixtures.
  2. What happens when sanitation is poor? What are the impacts?
  3. Show Bill Gates video: https://youtu.be/M9nRsJinHhM
  4. View Gates Foundation site: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/
  5. View Toilets for People for an example of a business: https://www.toiletsforpeople.com/
  6. Have students research other companies with a similar mission and objective.
  7. What social issues matter to the students?

Source: Wee, Sui-Lee (6 Nov. 2018). In China, Bill Gates encourages the world to build a better toilet. New York Times.

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Christmas is in the Air!

Can you smell it? It’s that time of the year when Christmas is in the air! Oh, lift your face and smell the scent of fir trees, pine cones, fresh cold air, and KFC fried chicken in the air! Wait, what, KFC fried chicken in the air? That’s become a Christmas scent?

Yes, KFC decided that Christmas needs more food smells, particularly its famous fried chicken with 11 herbs and spices. To that end, the company recently sold out of its five-pound fire logs that were scented with fried chicken. Relax though, no chickens were harmed and none are burned as part of the fire logs, which are made out of recycled materials. The logs burn up to 2.5 to 3 hours and have a caution applied – burning it may result in a crazing for fried chicken (plus it may attract hungry bears or neighbors).

KFC isn’t the only company applying scents to the holidays. General Mills is also using scents in movie theaters to entice consumers for its Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. General Mills is using scent machines at 200 theaters to push out a subtle scent of freshly cooked cinnamon rolls during pre-show commercials.

Why the emphasis on scents in marketing? Studies have indicated that smell is strongly linked to memory recall. Consumers link scents to memories, making them more inclined to purchase products that generate happy memories.

What smells do you like?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What are the scents of Christmas?
  2. Show the KFC yule log site: https://www.kfc.com/fire-log
  3. Show a video about KFC logs: https://youtu.be/b-4Yh8_4vZI
  4. Show the Pillsbury cinnamon theater commercial: https://youtu.be/z_ie4wdXyXM
  5. Divide students into teams.
  6. Have each team develop a marketing tactic using “scents” to improve branding and sales.
  7. What are the drawbacks to this type of marketing?

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, Entrepreneur, Ad Week, Fox News, other news sources

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Segway: Innovation and Re-Innovation

Perhaps you have ridden a Segway at some point in time, but it is much more likely you have not. First introduced in 2001, Segway was promoted as the world’s first self-balancing human transport vehicle. The product hype was enormous. People around the world clamored for the product that was supposed to revolutionize transportation, particularly in the last mile. But the hype never came to fruition. What happened?

Industry analysts had originally predicted that the innovative Segway would quickly reach $1 billion in sales. However, by 2007, it had reached only a fraction of that amount and growth appeared to stall out. Why? One key reason was the hefty price tag of $4,950, placing it outside the reach of most consumers. Another reason was that, well, people looked like geeks when riding it. It wasn’t cool, nor was it especially safe. Even then-President Bush was filmed on it while falling. And later, the company owner died while operating a Segway near his home.

This pushed the vehicle into the area of mall cops and tourists. However, in 2015, Chinese company Ninebot bought the company to use in developing other markets and products. Ninebot is a leading manufacturer of today’s electric scooters which are seeing strong acceptance in the marketplace, even as they too face safety issues.

But still, there are problems in the last mile. How do you navigate?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle.
  2. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?
  3. Poll students: Who knows anything about Segway?
  4. Where is Segway on the PLC? Where are electric scooters?
  5. Show Segway’s Web site: http://www.segway.com/
  6. Show Ninebot’s Segway site: http://uk-en.segway.com/
  7. Ask students what happened to Segway? Why wasn’t the product a hit?
  8. Show video story of Segway: https://youtu.be/U-l4Kf9NUJo
  9. What is the company doing now to re-invent itself? Can it succeed

Source: CNN Business

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