Necessity is the Mother of Invention …and Profit.

By Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics a Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative and Grow with American Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising

The phrase, necessity is the mother of invention can be traced back to Plato and is commonly used to refer to difficult situations which have inspired ingenious solutions. Solutions which meet unfulfilled needs until some bright person came up with a solution no one ever thought of before.

In the business world, we’ve started calling this solution creation innovation and we’ve certainly seen innovations become very powerful competitive advantages. Some have and continue to revolutionize entire industries and Wall Street watches them like a hawk.

The most successful companies go looking for problems to solve. They proactively seek to understand consumer behavior, consumer differences and unmet needs. I’m not talking about trends because by the time they become trends too many people are thinking about the same problems and creating the same solutions. I mean the problems no one is thinking about or has found yet. I mean the problems of people we may not be doing a great job of understanding. And here is where it starts to fall apart.

Many companies have innovations teams. The problem is that too many of these teams aren’t thinking about the US consumer marketplace as holistically as one might think. They’re looking at the same set of consumer issues on which everyone else is focused.  This is a huge miss if you ask me. It’s like looking for something new in partnership with your competition.

Isn’t it possible there are hundreds of values, attitudes, behavior differences and unmet needs – problems among the one hundred eight million multicultural consumers in the country today? Why aren’t companies thinking about and innovating with these consumers in mind when there are trillions, not billions of dollars at stake?

The people behind companies who have sought to understand the behaviors, differences and needs of multicultural consumers are creating solutions worth billions of dollars.

Business Name Category
Goya Foods Packaged Foods
Navarro Pharmacies Pharmacy
Univision Media
La Curacao Electronics and Furniture
Superior Grocers Grocery
Ria Envia (Acquired by WU) Money Remittances

These are the often ethnic-owned packaged goods companies, supermarkets, electronics and furniture stores, non-bank financial services, pharmacies, entertainment and media companies in the U.S. that have become wildly successful taking significant market share from larger corporations because they went problem hunting and innovated in uncharted territory.

I gave a talk at the National Restaurant Association this week entitled Ethnic Foods Trends: From Niche to Mainstream and found it fascinating, though not surprising that much of the audience were international foodservice professional looking to better understand global food preferences among U.S. consumers including multicultural consumers so they could create solutions and new restaurant concepts to meet those needs better than they are being met by U.S. companies.

Where are you looking?  Are you following the trends or creating them? Are you looking for problems to solve in all the right places? You should be. It could be very profitable.

Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in transformative business readiness and strategy consulting for profitable and enduring total market success. She helps her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com

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