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    Analytical Techniques for Idea Generation at Rubbermaid Inc.

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    Notice from reading the case below that Rubbermaid doesn't make much use of attribute analysis and other fortuitous scan techniques. Given their products and markets, which attribute analysis and fortuitous scan techniques could be used to develop new product ideas for the Rubbermaid Inc.?

    Select a couple of methods and see what you come up with. Some suggested (but not mandatory) techniques that you might wish to explore would include determinant gap maps, dimensional analysis, and checklists.

    Case: Rubbermaid Inc.

    Rubbermaid has consistently received awards as a well managed company. It made the Fortune magazine list for three consecutive years in the early 90's. It posts growth rates of 15 percent, even in tough times, with important contributions from new products. About 200 new items are introduced each year. Some are line extensions, and others enter, or even create, entirely new markets.

    The firm's success is based partly on creating and producing high quality, functional plastic products for the housewares, the office, the industrial and the farm markets in addition to specialty products such as toys, educational and recreational products and furniture. In recent years items have ranged from a spatula to a cooler used on a golf course and from a child's 15 pound mini car to lawn furniture. Category brands include Little Tikes, Gott, Blue Ice, Sunshine and others.

    Their firm makes almost a half million different items, boasts a 90 percent success rate on new products, and obtains at least 30 percent of its sales each year from products less than five years old.

    The firm's new product strategy is to meet the needs of the consumer. The new product rate is high, and diversification is desired. It is market driven, not technology driven, although in recent years the firm has identified such technologies as recycling new plastic parts form old tires for which it is seeking market opportunities. This practice of seeking opportunities for specific technologies will increase as a fall out of the firm's current use of simultaneous product development.

    For idea generation, Rubbermaid depends on finding customer problems that can be built into the strategic planning process. Problems are sought in several ways, the principal one of which is focus groups. It also uses comments and complaints from customers, an example of which came when the CEO Stanley Gault heard a Manhattan doorman complaining as he swept dirt into the Rubbermaid dustpan. Inquiry determined that the doorman wanted a thinner lip on the pan, so less dirt would remain on the walk. He got it.

    Marketing people document each complaint, and executives are encouraged to read the complaints. One complaint by customers in small households who found the traditional rack and mat too bulky to store, let do a compact, one-piece dish drainer. The Little Tikes toy division actually moulds a toll free number into each toy to encourage complaints and comments. They have to watch the legal ramifications, of course, and may require idea submitters to sign a waiver giving up their rights to their ideas. The firm generally finds its problems by using problem analysis in focus groups and solves them internally. They occasionally use scenario analysis to spot a problem. But scenario analysis is much less useful than problem analysis, because the lead times are so short; their new product cycles make them concentrate mainly on already existing problems. The organization is kept conducive to newly created ideas by promoting cross functional associations between workers. Problem -find - solve is encouraged at all levels.

    Some other new items have been: Bouncer drinkware was created for people who fear using glassware around their swimming pools. A lazy susan condiment try and other patio furniture products came from studies of life style changes. People working at home told of problems that lead to a line of home office accessories, including an "auto office", a portable devise that straps onto a car seat and holds pens and other office articles.

    The firm also runs a daycare program, where researchers observe children having problems with toys and test their new toys.

    Generally speaking, Rubbermaid does not make much use of attribute listing and other fortuitous scan methods of ideation, including the various mapping approaches. It does find that product life cycle models can be useful and it closely tracks competitive new product introductions.

    Rubbermaid is, however, always looking for new ways by which it can come up with good new product concepts. It knows from experience, for example, that there will be new ways by which problem-find-solve techniques can be used. And perhaps the fortuitous scan methods can be of greater use than now perceived.

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    Solution Preview

    See attached file for proper format of tables and graphs.

    There is no method that can be said to be the best or perfect method for generating new product ideas. Sometimes even a traditional or weak idea may also click for the company. Even a very weird idea may give the company a success. The attached file may help you provide insights into methods which Rubbermaid Inc. can use for Idea Generation. The methods are just guidelines through which you can try generating some ideas in practice. There can be many other methods also for the marketer to use for generating new ideas.


    The following methods have been used for generating new ideas by Rubbermaid Inc.:

    1. Customer Complaint or Suggestion Box
    2. Focus Groups
    3. Finding Customer Problems
    4. Scenario Analysis

    Traditionally Rubbermaid Inc. has been using above mentioned methods for idea generation. But there is more to explore in terms of generating new product ideas through different techniques which Rubbermaid Inc. can follow. These are as follows:

    1. Attribute Analysis - The ...

    Solution Summary

    The solution provides the brief description of analytical techniques for Idea Generation for developing new products for Rubbermaid Inc. These techniques discussed briefly include Attribute Analysis, Determinant Gap Analysis, Conjoint Analysis and Ethnographic Research. The methods which have been used by Rubbermaid for generating new ideas include Customer Complaint or Suggestion Box, Focus Groups, Finding Customer Problems and Scenario Analysis.