Paper products business at Georgia-Pacific is facing margin pressure and commoditization.
Retail customers own their channels, and are increasingly able to compete with their own private labels.
Additionally, major retail customers have a lot of power in this conversation, due to their dominance of the big-box retail format where Georgia-Pacific products currently sell most.
The leadership of Georgia-Pacific consumer products saw the writing on the wall, and has been investing in new products, categories and capabilities, with special care to stay on top of new tools and channels.
Under this kind of encouragement, the team has developed and released a variety of slick eCommerce brands, new, sustainable materials, and even hardware devices to improve the interface to their dominant categories.
However, running these innovations in the style most natural to a large company had taken more time & investment than they might have preferred.
After exposing the leadership team to Innoleaps’ Lean Transformation Framework in an Executive Session, the Innoleaps team helped identify a great place to run a proof of concept — a newly formed, high-performing team within Dixie, the group renowned for popularizing the paper plate and cup.
Starting from an open whiteboard, the team got together with their Innoleaps coach and went through the Lean Transformation Framework.
Digging into their expertise, they hypothesized several high-value customer groups, as well as problems that they would be well equipped to solve.
The team had some big assumptions about their customer: mainly that they were very similar to the customer they dealt with in the core business, had similar needs, and would react to similar propositions. Left to act without validation, the team would likely have wanted to go firmly after the middle-aged, suburban, mom with young kids and busy lifestyle to the exclusion of all others. Instead of act on this immediately, the team captured these as testable assumptions and went to work.
Over nearly 100 interviews and nearly 1000 surveys, they iterated through problem hypotheses, solution concepts, and prototypes, finally getting to two high quality, high-fidelity solutions. The team also benefited through understanding the impact of entrepreneurial customer obsession, a renewed belief in their ability to execute cross functionally, and an appreciation for running lean.
They carried one, named Festive, over the line for sales testing, including testing multiple acquisition channels and fulfilling several customers with an early version of the product. The biggest product assumption here was that the user did not want to spend time over-thinking their setup, and would go for well-executed, popular design motifs. This first version of the product had explicitly designed party-packs: a set number of well-researched designs, set numbers of plates, napkins, etc – and the customer could take it or leave it. While it was close — the team found customers, and got great feedback, customer acquisition was hard (and expensive) which did not mesh with the immediacy and painfulness of the problem indicated by the customer, and made the business case challenging to describe at scale.
So in modern, entrepreneurial fashion, the team pivoted away from their first idea toward one that was similar in vision, but simpler, easier to explain and easier to consume. The firmly fixed designs were replaced with a consultative assistant who would take design cues and desires from the end user, and in a proprietary way, quickly ‘design’ a specific vision for the customer based on their needs, themes, and party size. By doing this in a rigorous, hypothesis driven way, the team was also able to showcase improved early unit economics, and formulate an investment case for the next dose of metered funding.
Ultimately, over the intensive, 3-month program, the team was able not only to successfully create and ship a product substantially different than what they or Georgia-Pacific leadership had theorized, but also gathered sufficient data to show promising and profitable unit economics. Typically, this level of progress might have taken four times as long to achieve, and with an order of magnitude more expenditure.
These were enough not only to garner excitement from the leadership team on the impact made possible by Innoleaps’ Lean Transformation Framework, but also to obtain a seed investment to take the next steps in baking out the specific opportunity captured by Festive.