Innovation of Business

and the
Business of Innovation™
Justifying Innovation - Part 1

Developing the Message

Investor buy-in makes or breaks innovations, whether we develop products or businesses for internal or commercial applications. Parts 1 and 2 of this series focused on R&D justifying development of a new product entering a crowded product pipeline. Part 3 addresses key elements to management presentations. Part 4 focuses on packaging and delivery of the proofs.

Six Proofs

Management requires coherent, persuasive answers on at least six levels:
Technical Proof: (It works!)
Control Proof: (We own it!)
Safety Proof: (We are free of liability!)
Value Proof: (Customers will want it!)
Economic Proof: (A sufficient market exists!)
Attractiveness Proof: (The company needs it!)

With positive answers in hand for all six proofs, we might think management approval will be a snap. Easy as pie. Caution! Justification can fail purely on communication. We need the discipline to innovate written and verbal presentations. Preparation ensures impact.

Short Keys

Presenting proofs begins with capturing minds and anticipations. We need to shift our mindsets and the entire conversation away from presenting an R&D result and into proposing a product that isn’t yet complete.

Short keys are carefully crafted bits of language that set tone and capture attention.

Name (identity): Imagine your memory as a vast file cabinet with millions of file folders. Because memory is so big, humans remember better when they put names on their file folders. Naming creates a mental place to store related information. If I can’t remember your name, odds are I won’t remember details of our conversations.

Seek a memorable name that can get into the mind of skeptics. A name able to convey a strong, positive personality. A vehicle for carrying messages of value. Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( ) to confirm name availability in your markets.

Any name is better than no name. The best names define product niches (un-served markets) and preempt competition by becoming symbols of those niches. (Contact me for a list of naming conventions.)

Class (functionality): Memory improves further when the name has clear implications. A “functional class” is a broad category that defines the competitive arena of a business or the primary focus of a product. One or two words. Compact, easily remembered.

Choosing a class is choosing the business you will be in. For a business, enable growth. As trucking developed in the 1920s, railroads could have evolved from railroad companies to transportation companies. They didn’t, and lost huge opportunities.

For a product, seek a unique class (niche). If you are the only competitor, you have automatic advantage. Back in the ‘80s, Convex defined the idea of “mini supercomputer” to minimize competition with a horde of “super minicomputer” companies. Aldus distinguished themselves from word processing by defining “desktop publishing.”

Effective marketing can create mental connections between name and class, ideally making the two synonymous.

Slogan (personality): A slogan is a Scottish battle cry. What you yell when running into competitive battles. A slogan connect the essence of business/product to stakeholder needs. Where the class is crisp, the slogan conveys emotion. We want language that stirs the hearts of employees and captures the imagination of customers.

1: Advertising tag lines change with campaigns. The slogan is a long term decision… a fundamental descriptor that lasts until fundamental change occurs.
2: Refrigerator Test. If your slogan could be that of a refrigerator or refrigerator company, you haven’t captured the essence of your business or product. Go deeper.
3: Say it out loud. Does it come easily from your tongue? If not, rethink.
4. Can it be the theme of your primary presentation to the world? If not, question your choice.

Example: My first consulting job was for a small software company. In slogan brainstorming, everything stopped when someone offered, “Simplifying the Essentials.”

15 years later, that company was acquired, and I happened to know the VP of new parent company. When he first met the senior manager of his acquisition, he was told this… “We do software in just one way. We simplify the essentials. That’s what our customers buy, and we won’t do our job any other way.” Their slogan had become the core essence of the company, impacting operations, marketing, and hiring. Slogans can be powerful.

Value Promise

No one ever buys a product or invests in product development. They always invest in value. For the business, the value of an R&D concept includes revenues, advantage, and opportunities. For end customers, value is the sum of benefits received as the product is used. In Part 1 of this sequence, I shared Needs-Benefits Analysis, a powerful tool for defining value.

Of course, value isn’t that simple. Competitors meeting the same needs deliver similar benefits. To differentiate our product, we must also characterize buyers, users, and markets. And we learn more by defining uniqueness, desired perceptions, and sense of purpose. When we know a lot about the product, we can hypothesize a durable promise to end customers.

The slogan may be the core value promise. It was in the example above. If so, we’ve found the best possible situation. In other cases, the promise will be a separate phrase or statement. (See example below)

Our value promise is a very strategic decision that will create strong expectations. If matched, we build customer loyalty and brand equity. If not, reputation and revenues suffer.

Brand Concept

We cannot own our brands. We only own our brand concept – the integration of name, class, slogan, and value promise. Markets own brands. Brands live in the minds of people in target markets. Building a brand requires making the brand concept visible and credible over time.

Example: Years ago, I worked with Texaco’s Bellaire Labs to license a suite of technologies. We introduced them at a major trade show… … as if they were fully commercial products. I didn’t use brand language back then, yet the brand concept was clearly presented. Consider StarCut.


Water Cut Monitor
Field-proven, operationally efficient
microwave water cut
for timely, confident production decisions,
even from remote fields in hostile environments

The Microwave Measurement

Name, class, value promise, slogan. We don’t need to understand oil production to experience the very specific and compelling promise made to its target market. This language first attracted a licensee, then end customers. (We wouldn’t want a value promise much longer than this.)

Another story: After speaking at 3M, I met a scientist from the audience. He’d developed an idea and promoted it to management for 13 years, yet never got it into production. I loved the idea. It was something everyone needed and that vast markets of people would pay for. He couldn’t convince his company to invest.

I asked him if he’d given his concept a name. No… just project numbers. Think about that. Think about your first slide, announcing your cherished idea with … a … project number. Compare any style of bureaucratic designation to the impact of StarCut’s brand concept.

Short keys and value promises open minds. They put labels on mental file folders. They deliver concise, memorable introductions to ideas, technologies, products, and businesses. These few words set the stage for justification presentations.

Core Message

Homework done for the value promise also develops other perspectives on the potential product. The core message is an exercise in integrating and distilling those perspectives into, say, 200 words. Perspectives include: Short Description: An overview of functionality in a sentence. What the product is and does (will be and will do). No hype, no promotion, just clear facts.

Market Description: Compact definition of the product’s market and target segments, with characterizations of types of customers. Product Value: Why customers will buy. A summary of needs-benefits analysis. Without value, we have no market. (See Part 1)

Uniqueness: Reasons why customers will choose this product over alternatives. Without uniqueness, we are not competitive.

Position: The essence of what end customers think (or will think) about our product based on everything they see and hear about that product and its competition over time. A “market position” is what they now believe. A “desired position” is what we want them to believe.

Mission: A statement of purpose and strategic direction. Product missions clarify commitments to customers and enable effective decisions during development.

To write your core message, integrate these perspectives. Wordsmith to find compact, ultra-clear language. Minimize repetition. Use short paragraphs front loaded with key concepts. Make it a quick, easy read.

Persuading Investment

Our core message becomes an extended value promise. This message does not make the six proofs, yet sets a the stage for presentation with impact! We no longer propose an R&D result. We propose a product not yet completed. We no longer present a step toward and end. We present a clear vision of the final form, ready for market.

The proofs will make or break the go/no-go decision. Management won’t let clarity of vision overcome rational decision. On the other hand, our vision enables theirs. From the foundation of brand concept and core message, we can present an opportunity, not just a technology.



43. A polyp would be a conceptual thinker if a feeling of "Hollo! Thingumbob again!" ever flitted through its mind. (William James)

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