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New Product Ideas: Scotts MiracleGro Goes Natural

New product idea development through applying innovative technologies is a proven method for growth. This historical example explores how Scotts leveraged a technology from a partner firm to develop natural new products.

Scotts MiracleGro has a number of sustainability initiatives in place.  At the time of this case study, Scotts had an overall goal of making its products “greener” and providing product solutions for consumers who are focused on natural and/or organic choices. Plant Heath Care (PHC) develops proprietary biological products, and Scotts had entered into an agreement to work together on applying these technologies to Scotts MiracleGro new product ideas.

There were a number of priority questions to address for the natural new products:

  • Which consumers are the most attractive targets for natural plant food new products or natural lawn fertilizer new products?
  • What natural new product(s) does the technology have the most immediate application or offer the greatest benefit for and why?
  • What are the key benefits that this technology delivers to the new products, and what is the best way to talk about these benefits?  E.g., better for you, environment; healthier, better growing plants to maximize your investment; other?
  • What is the most relevant, differentiated positioning approach to use for the most attractive natural new product concept(s)?
  • What are the most appealing natural new products to pursue?  Why? 
  • What are the overall strategic growth opportunity areas (SGOAs)?
  • What trade-offs are consumers willing to make for natural organic products, e.g., efficacy, etc.?

Qualitative New Product Ideas Research: Initial Exploratory

Initially, the team reviewed existing information to summarize the findings, so as to “not reinvent the wheel.”  After that review, the first primary research step was qualitative, exploratory, in-depth interviews with a range of relevant consumers. The consumers interviewed included men and women who were past 12-month users of plant food or grass fertilizer.

Some of the key findings from the qualitative were:

  • Natural meant not chemical or synthetic
    • “A derivative from nature”
    • “Natural is good”
  • Organic also meant no chemicals, of the earth, but not as effective and likely expensive (In the plant food and fertilizer category)
    • Good and safe but may not cut the mustard”
    • “Less effective, more expensive”
  • Outdoor and gardening lifestyles vary considerably. For purposes of the natural new product development, the team focused on moderately-involved and highly-involved outdoor lawn and garden consumers
    • “California/outdoor living room”
    • Moms and dads with kids at home
    • Outdoor pet owners (i.e., dogs)
  • These consumers had interest in a natural product that would help grow stronger plants and was more natural
    •  “Improves a plants ability to take in nutrients”
    • “Nutrients that occur naturally”
    • “Strong roots determine how well a lawn or plant does”
    • “That’s a long-term gain”

Qualitative New Product Ideas Research: Focused Concept Exploration

New Product Ideas: Scotts MiracleGro Goes Natural

After the initial new product exploratory research was complete, we held a focused ideation session. The commitment was to test at least eight starting positioning ideas and at least 10 starting new product ideas.  All names underwent legal review by Scotts before they were tested.

In the end, we tested 38 natural new product ideas and/or positioning alternatives in five overall benefit areas with target consumers in nine mini focus groups.  The benefit areas were:

  1. Immediate results
  2. Long-term results
  3. Protection/insurance
  4. Safety
  5. Convenience

Both the plant food natural new product concepts and the lawn fertilizer natural new product concepts cut across diverse gardening situations and included both short-term and longer-term ideas.

Natural New Product Ideas: Recommendations for Quantitative Testing

The target consumer optimization process yielded six natural new products to put into quantitative testing as well as several additional products that were hybrid (not natural specific). 

The appealing concepts included the following:

3 lawn fertilizer natural new products

  1. Natural weed and feed
  2. Effective water use/less waste lawn
  3. Naturally safe anytime fertilizer (example below)

Scott’s EcoSense Biofertilizer.  One Lawn Fertilizer You Can Apply Whenever It’s Convenient for You Because It’s Naturally Safe.

If it’s been rainy, many traditional fertilizers tell you to wait until the grass is dry before applying. If it’s dry, they may tell you to water the fertilizer in…which can burn out the lawn in hot weather. And often they want you to wait a day or two before you let the kids and the dog use the lawn again.

That’s because traditional lawn fertilizers are chemicals. But Scott’s EcoSense is a biofertilizer. It’s completely natural. And completely safe. So, you can apply it anytime, rain or shine. It helps your grass develop stronger, deeper roots, so it can tap into water and nutrients better. 

As the roots become denser and tougher, your grass gets thicker and greener. And you can walk on the lawn right after applying this biofertilizer without concern that you’re damaging the lawn or tracking in chemicals on your shoes.

No waiting for the right weather. No planning. No worry. You can use Scott’s EcoSense fertilizer any time you want.

3 plant food natural new products  

  1. Natural soil revitalizer
  2. Effective water use/less waste plants (example below)
  3. Natural tree and shrub saver

MiracleGro EcoSense, The Natural Biofertilizer

Your Plants Make Better Use of the Water You Provide

Having healthy green plants and flowers that keep their fresh look in the heat of summer is important to you. That’s why you water. But you want to make sure that water doesn’t go to waste.

MiracleGro EcoSense helps your plants make better use of the water you give them because it’s a biofertilizer. Its beneficial bionutrients aid in the development of bigger, deeper roots – roots that can access and retain more water. EcoSense also includes special water-saving bionutrients discovered in desert yucca. They help your soil soak up and retain more water, giving the roots a chance to absorb it. So, your plants and flowers can draw up to 20% more water from the soil. Which means they can stand up to the heat of the sun better, without wilting.

In addition, EcoSense provides important organic nutrients – and the healthier root system helps your plants take in more nutrients.

With MiracleGro EcoSense, your watering does your plants more good.  And less water goes to waste.

Quantitative New Product Ideas Testing

After this, Scotts’ process was to quantitatively test the concepts.  The expectation was that there would be several products that were commercially viable to pursue. Our team was selected because of our proven track record of developing concepts that quantify well. After this engagement, we were asked to return for several different initiatives in other areas. 

Pro Tip: Define Strategic Growth Opportunity Areas to Include New Products

Beyond the individual concepts, the overall strategic growth opportunity area (SGOA) for Scotts MiracleGro was specified, including the target consumer, situations, unmet needs, benefits and example products.

New Product Ideas: Scotts MiracleGro Goes Natural

We strongly encourage organizations that are developing new product ideas to define the broader SGOA and ensure that their new products are aligned with a large, attractive SGOA.  With this approach, if an individual idea does not succeed, the organization still gains relevant insight and lessons about the larger focus area. By comparison, if new product ideas that fail are scattershot with no consistency, little is learned.

Given that this is a historical case study, we expect that consumer attitudes have changed and firms like Scotts and its competitors have many new solutions.  With 2020 focus on outdoor backyard lifestyles, there is likely even more interest in natural solutions.  

If you are interested in learning more about new products, visit our resources page.  Or contact us to begin the conversation.