Accelerate Growth Through Strategic Integration of Research During the Innovation Process

Stephanie Cunningham, Associate Director, Global Insights Business Lead—Specialty Division, The Clorox Company

Jody McInerney, Senior Vice President, Burke, Inc.


Stephanie began with crisis, a story about the kitty litter business. Competitive pressures were high. Market share was being lost. They needed a new product, in a hurry. From concept to packaging, they needed it all: RTB, packaging design, product name, name and product fit with top benefits, and fully baked complete concepts to test against legacy products and competitive products.


Clorox had five weeks to cram in eight months of work before the end of the fiscal year and their plan to retailers.


They had limited time and were forced to explore non-traditional methods.


They called Burke, Inc. for help, and began the Accelerated Learning Labs®, a methodology designed to shorten the learning curve and allow teams to get more done in less time.


Accelerated Learning Labs® focus efforts into a single-day or real-time learning.


Steps of framing an Accelerated Learning Lab®

  1. Gather Participants
  2. Evaluate
  3. Choose subgroup
  4. Explore
  5. Refine Ideas as a Team


This methodology provided a way for the Fresh Start team to get the results they needed in their timeframe.


The Fresh Step team pushed back at first at this method. There was fear of the unknown, no proof that it would work, and questions about the output. This process requires a high-performing team to execute, so it was critical to get all of the internal stakeholders to suspend disbelief and deeply participate in the process.


For each of these client fears, there was a solution. There was the trust of working with a supplier with whom they’ve had a decade-long relationship. They set expectations about the level of involvement. They also engaged creative teams and agency partners from the outset.


In the end, the whole Fresh Step group (Innovation manager, brand manager, designers, consultant team, and marketing manager) all dove in as a unified cross-functional team.


Once aligned, the team moved forward with

  • Three-in-person sessions in one market
  • Total of 102 participants (34 per session)
  • 1.5 hours of quantitative evaluations
  • 1.5 hours of qualitative probing with small groups of six-eight.


Understanding the most compelling message—the RTB—was the prime mover in this scenario. Then, we moved into package design that needed to stand out at the shelf. We tested a total of 18 names, then took the names and packaging and tested fit with the benefit (RTB).


Consumers provided ways to improve the benefit, the look-and-feel, the imagery, and the name. They were invaluable in driving iteration after iteration that made the product more desirable in the market.


They planned the five-week sprint in weekly segments with things that had to be completed each week.


So, was it a success? Yes. They met the impossible timeline. Since launch, Clorox has done more rigorous testing and the product that was launched has tested very well each time. Plus, the market accepted and embraced the product.


The ability to learn in the moment, given the tight timelines, was instrumental to hitting the condensed timeline.