There are a 183 million pet fish in the United States, more than double the number of dogs. Fourteen million U.S. households have fish. During the past decade, the pet fish category grew by more than 20% making it one of the fastest growing in the industry. For this month's LAB, we will apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to the mainstay of fish keeping - the aquarium.
Here are five unique aquarium concepts invented by one of my graduate students, Janette Douglas, at the University of Cincinnati as part of her final exam in "Applied Marketing Innovation." For the this exam, each student was given a product randomly. They had three hours to create new-to-the-world concepts and demonstrate proficiency using each of the templates.
- glass panels
- bottom of tank
Here are her ideas:
1. SUBTRACTION (remove an essential component): Remove the fish. Make the tank a "plant only" tank. The benefits are: lower maintenance, lower cost, more flexibility, and more room in the tank. The target audience is people who enjoy the peaceful nature of an aquarium but don't want the responsibility of taking care of an animal. (DREW'S NOTE: this idea actually exists today, especially for a niche of aquarium owners who "aquascape".
2. TASK UNIFICATION (assign an additional job to an existing resource): Assign the gravel the additional job of regulating water temperature. The benefits are: no need to monitor water temperature as it is self-regulated, easy to add fresh water without having to worry about temperature, and less expensive as you do not need a separate water heater. Target audience is people who tend to make frequent changes to their home's temperature or people who live in climates with extreme temperature changes. Feasibility is a question mark - not sure if this technology exists or could be developed.
3. MULTIPLICATION (make copies of a component but with a qualitative change): Multiply the filter but change direction of flow - instead of filtering waste out, the second filter adds components to the water. The benefits are: easy to add vitamins and other useful chemicals making it easier to control water quality. Target audience is people who have exotic fish that require specific water conditions.
4. DIVISION (physically or functionally cut the product or component): Cut the glass in half. This creates two separate spaces in the aquarium to support two separate marine environments side-by-side. Target audience is people who want to enjoy fresh and saltwater tanks. It could also be used by marine biologists who want to use two separate tanks to do research (manipulate one side and compare results to the other). (DREW'S NOTE: this product exists).
5. ATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY: (create or break a dependency between internal and external attributes): The glass panels change (clarity) depending on the oxygen levels in the external air and internal water environment so that adjustments can be made accordingly. Potential benefits: greater accuracy of water composition in relation to the external air. Target audience is fish hobbyists or scientists needing to carefully regulate oxygen for specific types of fish or plants.
Janette did a nice job on this final exam even though she is not an aquarium owner. What I like about this example is that is shows how well people can innovate even when they are not experts in the product or service. I doubt that a person who had never seen an aquarium could have generated these ideas. But with just a general knowledge about the domain, people can innovate routinely using structured innovation methods.