Why the edible water bottle is an interesting strategic design success story

The soggy edible water bottle has been quite a matter of conversation of late. Conceived by guys at Skipping Rocks Lab, the new product boasts the ambitious mission of contributing to a plastic-free future, accounting for the many concerns aroused by the exponential growth of synthetic packaging.

We met the inventors of the “OohO!” at the Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, few weeks ago. Against the dire predictions about our planet and the urgent call to actions, Skipping Rocks Lab are providing a realistic solution, which doesn’t impose huge costs and a punctual way to drink water.

Why this product has very much to do why design strategy.

Strategic Design and design thinking in general ideally address large-scale and complex issues, relative to environment, social innovation or economic challenges. What is really peculiar of these discipline is their ability to bring these problems back to a more manageable dimension, that is the user dimension. The edible water bottle is doing precisely that: we have a big sustainability issue, which touches the economy and the society in its lager meaning, and there is the user, which this spongy sphere is tailored on.

If design thinking is “A set of principles good at making people interactions with new products, technologies or other complex systems simple, intuitive, and pleasurable” [Harvard Business Review]”, the ooHo bottle serves people’s needs by introducing a ever-before-seen technology (the one that allows to extract a wrapping membrane form seaweed), which allows them to consume water as if they were eating a fruit.

The gestures that the creative team imagined for the product when put into the mouth recalls in fact the movements of hands when we are manipulating something spheric, say a cherry or a small apple.

An analysis of the Ooho! through the Ten Types of Innovation Framework by Doblin Group. The product has proved disruptive potential in at least 8 of the 10 components of the framework. The remaining components may constitute room for further innovation, in a future phase of the product lifecycle. See below.

The edible water “bottle” is also a PPS (product-service-system) where product innovation and brand strategy coalesce. The first could not be thought of without a sound forecast of which kind of people would use the product and in which particular occasions. Given the nature of this zero-packaging water bottle, the company is promoting it at major sport or cultural events, such as marathons, concerts, fairs. A clever marketing strategy, paired by lively communications campaign, which is set to expand to other potential markets — -the world of coffee shop chains like Starbuck’s or Pret à Manger, for instance.

The Ten Types of Innovation Framework help understand the disruptive potential for innovation of Skipping Rocks Lab as a packaging company, compared to more traditional bottled-water incumbents .

1.Profit model_how the company will make money from the Ooho!? It is likely that the edible water bottle would challenge its industry’s tired old assumptions about what offerings and pricing. If mass produced, this kind of product has the potential to game-change the sector, in terms of its revenue streams.

2.Network_ the technology behind it makes this product a massive shift from any of our familiar concepts of liquid container. The specificity of a production line for a packageless bottle calls for an overhaul of the types of companies that Skipping Rocks Lab may want to join forces with.

3.Structure_the balance between company departments is likely to be transformed in a company where R&D is likely to get far more prominence.

4.Process_As “process innovations often form the core competency of an enterprise” [Doblin], the Oohoh! proprietary approach — which competitors can’t replicate — may yield the company a long standing competitive edge.

5.Product Performances_A totally new product, with unexpected features, very much different from the classical concept of “bottle”.

6.Channel_how does the company connect with their users and potential customers? The peculiarities of the edible water bottle are necessarily leading the company to scout up new places and occasions of consumption to promote the product.

7.Brand_Again the uniqueness of this product will help craft the consumers’ perception of the brand , helping them build a strong link between the company and its technology.

8. Customer Engagement_ The company is proving clever in involving consumers, by tapping into them through special events, pop-up initiatives and more.

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Originally published at medium.com on May 30, 2017.