A tale of benefit bundling around for innovation inspiration


“What are the seven signs of ageing?” I ponder as I look in the bathroom mirror this morning, because I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least four of them. Can you remember? Did you ever know? A good pub quiz question if you are a compiler of such things. (Answer at the end of this post – no googling!)

[This post is adapted from one I originally put up on LinkedIn]

 Once upon a time 7 years ago

 Way back in 2012 I was delighted to be asked by a client to a meeting to talk about how to create winning propositions in the adult vitamin and mineral supplements market. I was pleased because we’d been asked back after a successful project working on kid’s vitamins. Always nice to be asked back as it’s a sign you are doing something right and are seen to be adding value.

 My enthusiasm was tempered when I learned that the meeting was to be at the East Midlands airport. Now the prospect of a few hours looking out over a regional airport terminal had not been challenging for a place in the top five of my bucket list, however attend we did.

 The Adult VMS market is a complex and tricksy category driven by implicit benefits and half-formed beliefs where consumers seldom see any tangible benefits. “I tried them for a while but did not see any difference” is a frequent refrain I heard again this week. Not an easy brief.

 Inspiration from a Parallel Universe

 It just so happened that at the time I was teaching beauty care marketing around the world for Johnson & Johnson through a course called Skintuition. This was undoubtedly the best training experience I have ever been involved in delivering. The aim was to convert healthcare marketers into beauty marketers in four days. The event opened with attendees entering a darkened room with Parisien fashion show videos on the screen, music blaring out loud and it is revealed that the room is set up with a catwalk on which attendees will later get to introduce themselves and strut their stuff. Quite an impactful opening.

 As part of that course we took a look at the successful transformation of grandma’s favourite Oil of Ulay into the global mega-brand Olay following the acquisition by Procter & Gamble in the mid 80s from Richardson Vicks. In particular I was intrigued by the Total Effects sub-brand and how they successfully built that upon the “seven signs of ageing”. A smart way of bundling benefits conveyed in an immediate way. The way P&G used sub-brands to target specific needs segments on a global basis has been a really clever piece of strategic marketing and it makes for a great case study.



It struck me that if we could pull off the same trick in adult vitamins and minerals that would be a powerful idea. This was the topic of my intervention and flip-chart ramblings at the East Mids airport. Though I must admit I came away from the meeting not sure that I had added any value or indeed if anyone was listening.

Back to the Present Day – What Goes Around…

 Fast forward to 2019 and one of the client team at that meeting has asked us to do another project in VMS and other healthcare categories. It’s always nice to be asked back like I say.


VMS Fixture.png

Back to Boots and an opportunity to re-acquaint myself with the VMS fixture and I can see the results of that meeting seven years ago on-shelf and doing well. Seven Seas Perfect 7 is clearly enjoying plenty of shelf-space and extended with a number of variants on show.

The business of strategic marketing and innovation advice can be sometimes frustrating because often you don’t see the outcomes of your work for many years (in this case seven years!) or ideas become diluted or lost after your involvement. However here was a lovely example where the client team had done a fantastic job of executing the idea and all the hard work that comes with developing and delivering a proposition to market.

The intriguing twist to this story is that in 2018 the Merck Consumer Healthcare Business including the Seven Seas brand was acquired by P&G for $4.2bn. So it all came back around to where we started and the winning proposition had become re-united with its source of inspiration.

The Power of Transposing Inspiration for Innovation

The learning for me is about the power of taking inspiration, adopting the principles of success and transposing ideas across categories or indeed geographies. Innovation does not have to be clever-clever just the successful adoption and adaption of what works. Though it would be unrealistic to imagine that you can achieve any of this without fantastic execution too.

Oh yes those seven signs of ageing are, wait for it..

  1. Dark spots

  2. Sagging skin

  3. Dull glow-less skin

  4. Lines & wrinkles

  5. Dry skin

  6. Patchy skin

  7. Open pores

 How many could you recall? Or perhaps of more concern how many do you see in the mirror? Never mind. If you’d like help with inspiration for your innovation projects do get in touch.