Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stillborn innovation at Campbell's

Late last year, a colleague left my place of employment to go work for Campbell's soup as a Director of Innovation. She sent an email to a bunch of folks with her new contact info and at the end of her email it said "eat a lot of soup".

My initial reaction was that this wasn't likely to convince anyone to change their soup eating behavior. But then my marketing brain kicked in and I thought these email signatures could be a great marketing vehicle.

It seemed to me that since this is a free country, people are already eating as much Campbell's soup as they want. The soup is widely available, relatively cheap and everyone has heard of it. So simply telling folks to eat more of it is pretty much a waste of time.

But why not put recipes in the email signature so people can learn new ways to use Campbell's soup? I thought people could either do this on their own or have their email system randomly pull recipes from a database and add it to the signature of employees that opt-in.

So I sent that idea to my colleague. She suggested that I submit the idea to Campbell's idea submission website when it launched. A few months later she wrote to me and sent me the link for their just launched website. I went in and submitted the idea.

Just the other day,
9 months later, I got a letter from Campbell's. The letter said:

"Thank you for submitting your idea through the
Ideas for Innovation program and for offering us the opportunity to give it an initial review. Although we appreciate your interest in Campbell Soup Company, we have determined that it falls outside the Company's priorities at the present time.

We wish you the very best in your future endeavors."

Are they kidding me?! They just sent me the cheesy corporate job applicant rejection notice! So let's look at the problems here:

1) They're sending me this letter a full 9 months after I submitted my idea. I had totally forgotten about sending them the idea. I had forgotten about Campbell's. But now they send me this letter basically reminding me that after taking the time to submit an idea, they didn't have the decency to get back to me quickly.
2) They're telling me that they gave this an "initial review". Just how long would a thorough review take?
3) They're not implementing the idea. This is a no-brainer idea. There's just no reason not to go ahead and do it. They have recipes on their website. They could just send out a note to employees asking them to append a recipe to their email signature and to change it up every so often. This would take 1 minute. I freely admit that my idea is not going to disrupt the soup market. But it might get a few people to reconsider the utility of canned soup. Submitting this idea to a 9 month review is just silly.
4) They're wishing me the best in my future endeavors? Give me a break! I didn't apply to work for them. I didn't invest many hours and dollars in developing this idea hoping to sell it to Campbell's and cash out and retire. I sent them a tiny little no-brainer idea for their benefit. They respond with a bad rejection letter. It's condescending and just plain dumb.

The fact that it took them 9 months to do this is so precious. A human life could have been created in this time. But they produced stillborn innovation.

1 comment:

Jer979 said...

Harsh, but oh so accurate. So easy to forget that there is a real person on the other end of the line...