Creative insights for disruptive innovation: Blue Ocean Strategy, and the power of non customers

Maria Bouanane is a consultant in Innovation and a graduate from HEC Business School. She’s been working in marketing department of worldwide companies (Sara Lee, L’Oreal, Yoplait, Nike) and in research & innovation consulting companies (Research International, Added Value).

She created Belle Mine, an Innovation Consulting company in 2008. She’s one of the French specialist for the roll-out of “Blue Ocean Strategy” approach, and the detection of creative insights to feed innovation ideation.

 She kindly accepted to answer a few questions about her innovation approach, seeking for creative insights, identifying inspiring targets, and her concrete results in shaping disruptive innovation.

The Supply and the Demand

 What brought you to innovation and to the adoption of a new approach?

 During my marketing path, I have been « brought up » at two different business & marketing « schools ».

  •  On the one hand, the demand or PULL marketing « school » where you focus on consumers and develop new products that meet consumer needs & expectations. Business opportunities to capture new targets are identified but they are considered only if the target « worths it », if the size of the target has enough business potential. Here comes the limit of the classical approach of segmentation that clusters market into targets that become more and more niche.
  • On the other hand, the supply or PUSH business « school » where companies create demand while pushing on the market new products driven by brand stretching or by technological progress (sometimes technological breakthrough). Here comes the limit of technological progress that might not create new consumer usages or that overmeets consumer needs or abilities (for instance, what’s the point of having a treadmill where you can run at 22 km/hours?…).

Nowadays, even one might be dominant (regarding the culture or the field of play), most companies try to combine the two, capturing both consumer needs and trying to transform technological progress into new valuable consumer experience.

But, when trying to better meet consumer needs and/or developing technological superiority, most companies are nevertheless, in the run for leadership position and superior products (low cost being a price superiority). This « good, better, best » approach is totally relevant & profitable when markets are« naturally » growing…but when markets are saturated or when markets turn down, the competitive battle field in the « red ocean » becomes more critical and less profitable.

Blue Ocean Strategy: breaking the rules between Supply & Demand

Where do you go seeking for creative insights? What transversal approach do you propose for innovative offerings?

Throughout the business case of the Nintendo WII, I will explain how the Blue Ocean Strategy opens a different way of creating new business opportunities combining « NON DEMAND » & PUSH strategic approach.

Before WII release, the video game market was focused on « gamers », mainly 15-25 years old men, and was driven by 3 competitive factors:

  • Processors power
  • Graphics performance
  • Wide variety of games

Nintendo approach combined both NON USERS exploration and new technological and usage push.

  • First, they explored the needs of different profiles of non users of video games. But instead of segmenting the market trying to design one specific offer for each target, they focused on all the transversal needs and expectations among the different profiles of non users of video games.

  • And then, they designed the product that could meet the common needs of all non users. The starting point was not the « how to improve » existing products but « what product can we design to meet non users needs. And then came the disruptive push answer of Nintendo that created a technological and usage breakthrough inventing a new way of playing video games with a new intuitive gesture that seduced a new large audience of non gamers from young « lolita » to elderly.
Note: have a look at collaborative design approach.

Deep dive in Blue Ocean strategy

 How do you implement Blue Ocean strategy in your innovation assignment? What are the successive steps?

 Some of you might say that there is nothing really new in exploring non consumers…but indeed very few companies dedicate time and money doing a « deep dive » into the blue ocean of non consumers: « It is not our priority, we prefer to focus on our consumers »…unseeing the wide business opportunities behind that unexplored territory.

At Belle Mine, we have crafted the Blue Ocean Insight Research, a specific method of non consumers exploration that enables to find latent insights that can open new roads of disruptive innovation.

  • The first step of the method is to enlarge the vision of your market, that is to redefine your market moving from product attributes definition (what is it?) to consumer benefit definition (what for?)…and if you start doing the exercise, you will find many different ways of redefining your market. Coming back to our treadmill, you might for instance say that you are on the weight management market or on the tension release market.
  • The second step is to identify all the different profiles of non consumers that are interested by the benefits of your market but who don’t buy your product with its existing attributes. They might use nothing, but most of the time use alternative solutions. Extreme profiles, reluctant users are included in the research.
  • The third step is to conduct the field exploration among all the different profiles of non users and to identify the transversal needs of all those non users. In that field exploration, we always combine attitude (what people think) and 360 ° behaviors (what people do at different steps and moments of usage/experience).
  • In 3 to 4 months, you’re able identify new “hidden” insights, and generate new innovations projects.

So, if you forget about your product and forget about your consumers, you might see what’s behind the scene and get the relevant « food for thought » to design new disruptive products!

Maria Bouanane, Blue Ocean Strategy Instructor, @mariabouanane



  1. Actually there is more food for thoughts in BOS, non consumers being one of them; “Blue Ocean Strategy provides a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant based on 6 principales: reconstruct market boundaries, focus on the big picture, reach beyond existing demand (non consumers), get the strategic sequence right, overcome organizational hurdles, and build execution into strategy.” What I personally like to practice is the Strategic Canvas, focusing on a small number of key competing factors to innovate.

  2. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

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