The marketing concept holds that customer needs and wants are the logical place to start the search for new product ideas. Hippel has shown that the highest percentage of ideas for new industrial products originates with customers.6 Many of the best ideas come from asking customers to describe their problems with current products. For instance, in an attempt to grab a foothold in steel wool soap pads, 3M organized consumer focus groups and asked about problems with these products. The most frequent complaint was that the pads scratched expensive cookware. This finding produced the idea for the highly successful Scotch-Brite Never Scratch soap pad.7 In addition to customers, new-product ideas can come from many sources: scientists, competitors, employees, channel members, sales reps, top management, inventors, patent attorneys, university and commercial laboratories, industrial consultants, advertising agencies, marketing research firms, and industry publications.
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