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What Coke’s Bottle Cap Innovation Reveals About What People Want

Nothing is more difficult than figuring out what people want.

Not just with the big, life-changing technologies people want. If you’ve ever been stuck in the endless loop of “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t care, you choose,” you know that every decision that gets made is a tiny miracle. 

Inevitably, decisions create outbursts. Product managers know this all too well. Whether they are outbursts of support or frustration, PMs hear it all. 

Coke recently experienced a wave of reactions to their announcement of new bottle caps that don’t come off. The decision for the new design came from a desire to cut down on the environmental impact of their plastic bottles. The bottles make it to recycling bins, but their caps often end up as litter. They were trying to find a simple way to prevent that from happening. While it earned them positive PR, they also faced some backlash from people who didn’t think the solution was enough.

So how should companies go about understanding what their customers really want and meeting their needs?

The Truth About What Customers Want

There’s an anecdote about trying to understand people’s daily diets. Researchers say if you want to know what people eat, you can’t simply ask them. You have to look through their trash. The reliable data is in the garbage, not the food diary. 

Most of us can only describe our daily frustrations with any amount of accuracy. Saying, “We need to eliminate all these meetings!” describes our feeling that we don’t have enough time in the day for our work. We ask for fewer meetings but the right solution may be as simple as a more thoughtful meeting schedule with longer blocks of free time to focus. 

Similarly, we know how products or features fall short of exactly what we envisioned. But the truth about what we want and what would improve our daily lives—that can only come from data. 

Product analytics and behavioral data reveal more than just our habits. They show what we value, the features within a product where we get stuck, and the features that might help improve our processes. In short, data validates what your customers want. 

Smarter Product Roadmaps, Shorter Timelines

Perhaps more importantly, product analytics also shorten the time between data collection and product innovation. One of the reasons critics are harsh on Coke’s cap innovation is they feel it’s “too little, too late.” A sentiment all SaaS organizations have heard before. Your newest release is valuable, but a customer felt they had to wait too long for it. In their frustration, they found a new solution. 

Sometimes, the sentiment is true. Without meaningful data to drive a strategy, it could take teams years to have their ah-ha! moment. We’re seeing a bit of that in the newest announcement from Snapchat and Live Nation. The two recently announced a partnership to create a new feature for festival attendees to make it easier to find their friends at the show, see the lineup, and access exclusive content. 

This is a brilliant move that seems almost too late. Think about any concert you’ve gone to in the last 10 years. Phones are everywhere! The service is always unreliable, but people are experiencing much of the show with their phones out. Of course it makes sense to create an immersive experience for attendees on the device they’re using the entire time. It makes you wonder why it took so long to create a feature like this.

One reason might be that it’s hard to stay focused on delivering the best value without the right information. 

Armed with comprehensive behavioral data, Product teams can create an informed, strategic product roadmap. With each new release, teams are clear on why they made each upgrade, who it is best suited for, and how those customers should use the new features to reach their goals. That means better communication plans, more thoughtful in-app engagements surrounding each release, and faster adoption by your base. 

In other words, durable growth driven by your product

No matter what industry you’re in, or what product you’re offering, there is a way to ensure the decisions you make are the most valuable for your base. The right data platform will be the difference between a feature that is “too little, too late” and one that is as indispensable as cell phones at a concert. #KnowWhatMakesPeopleClick