CHICAGO -- Using cross-functional teams focused on the consumer has paid off for Pillsbury Co., Minneapolis, in terms of successful product introductions, said Bernadette Piacek-Llanes, vice president of research and development.
Cross-functional teams consist of 10 or fewer members with complementary skills, including functional/technical, problem-solving/decision-making and interpersonal, she said.
"Consumer-focused design" looks beyond the "sizzle" of an item or brand to the different aspects of convenience and personal relevance of the item, she said.
"Convenience doesn't just have to do with quick preparation. It also refers to the ability to purchase the item quickly in a convenient location. Personal relevance gets at the heart of what we need to do with new products. We need to develop products for people and places. Some of the most compelling positionings I have seen are the most simple," she said.
Piacek-Llanes spoke here at a new products conference sponsored by The Marketing Institute, a division of the Institute for International Research, New York.
Consumer-focused design played an important role in the successful introduction of Pillsbury's teddy bear and dinosaur cookies, according to Piacek-Llanes.
The original idea was to develop a refrigerated slice-and-bake cookie dough with fun shapes stuffed in the middle. This was in response to consumer trends toward more family-centered activities and the ever growing influence of children on family buying decisions, she said.
Such a product would build on Pillsbury's strengths, she added.
The marketer's consumer research included conducting tests with both mothers and children. Selected callers to Pillsbury's 800 consumer hotline were also questioned about the concept.
This research indicated the proposed product would have concept and flavor appeal and identified the flavor combinations and shapes consumers were most likely to prefer.
The consumer focus of the cookies is also evident in the score marks in the dough, spaced a quarter-inch apart. These were put there because research indicated it can be difficult for the average consumer to consistently cut the dough into quarter-inch slices. The quarter-inch slices have better bake tolerance and yield an improved finished product, she said.
Two other elements of the teddy bear and dinosaur cookies can be traced to Pillsbury's consumer-focused design: the clear endcap on the package so consumers can see the shapes in the dough before they buy the product, and the reclosable container, which means the whole package does not have to be baked at once, she said.