How to Brainstorm Unique Products in a Competitive Market

How to Brainstorm Unique Products in a Competitive Market

You don’t need to have a “Eureka!” moment to come up with a great business idea. You can easily come up with great ideas if you ask yourself the right questions.

More people are interested in entrepreneurship than ever before. Everyone gets stuck at “coming up with a good idea.”

One problem I see is people want to create copycat products that aren’t any different from the incumbents. Or they want to make the same thing, but just do it cheaper.

My friend mentioned he wanted to start a protein bar company. They’re consumable, easy to put on subscription model, and decent margins.

The problem is they’re kinda competitive.

I asked him what his bars are going to be like?

“Tastes great, low sugar, high protein, and high fiber.”

My immediate reaction: “How are you going to compete against Quest and all the other protein bars that promise the exact thing?” 

You need to solve problems, and you need to solve them in a different way than everyone else.

I’m going to walk you through the brainstorming session I had with him. He’s not pursuing this industry anymore so maybe one of you guys can do something with it (and hook me up with protein bars!) 

You can approach ideation in a systematic manner. Take the question and framework that I’m using, and use to brainstorm ideas for yourself. 

1. What Demographics Aren’t Being Served?

I started getting into skincare when I saw my first wrinkle. I went off to Walgreen’s. And went straight to the men’s aisle and saw my options.

I didn’t understand why my facial lotion had to be “extreme.” 

Later on, I learned that there’s really no difference between men and female skincare. I’m paying extra for it to smell like trees.

You see this in all industries. Women pay something called the “Pink Tax.”

You can take this mentality and create a brand around demographics.

  • Older men
  • Older women
  • Kids
  • Teenagers

You can formulate the protein bars to serve the demographic better. Add some cartoon images for the kids. Older women will be attracted to bars with collagen in them. 

2. What’s the Next Diet Trend?

Here are the guarantees in life: Death, Taxes, and a new diet trend.  

Keto is the hot diet right now. A few years ago, PerfectKeto came in and crushed it. They have supplements and protein bars designed to help people with their Keto goals.

Going vegan is becoming more popular. There are plenty of vegan protein bars out there. 

These two markets are probably too competitive right now for you to enter.

Do some research into what the next diet trends are.

Here’s what I found:

  • There’s an increasing demand for diets that boost immunity. You can guess why.
  • Another diet trend is the DASH diet, which is focused on preventing heart disease and lowering high blood pressure. It’s based on restricting the amount of sodium.

Understand the needs of the diet, and formulate appropriately. 

3. What’s a Unique Ingredient with Proven Benefits?

The right ingredient can provide a benefit, and differentiate your product from everyone else’s.

What is one unique ingredient that you can add to your bar? How does that benefit help?

  • Four Sigmatic pioneered the mushroom movement for supplements and coffee. There’s a trend towards people realizing the power of mushrooms.
  • Exo Protein is using Crickets. There’s a trend toward sustainability. Crickets are the world’s most sustainable protein. 

I would research other sources of “weird” protein. Research other cultures. Look at the “past” for inspiration. Bulletproof made butter in coffee popular, but it has existed for thousands of years in Tibet. Chia seeds are popular now with suburban moms, but Peruvians have been eating it for thousands of years. 

What other insects could be good sources of protein?

You could do an ant, beetle, or grasshopper based protein bar.

Think about how large the “collagen” protein industry has become. What’s the next collagen?

4. What Flavors Are Popular, but Aren’t Utilized Yet? 

This one’s inspired by Ben & Jerry’s.

I’m looking at protein bars, and they tend to fall into the usual flavors: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, cookie dough, cookies and cream, etc.

What other interesting flavors can you come up with?

Here are a few ideas I have. 

  • Ethnic based. Could there be protein bars that are Indian, Japanese, or Brazilian flavored?
  • Cereal. When I lived in New York, I loved getting cookies by Milk Bar. Their signature flavor was “cereal.” I wonder if there are any protein bars inspired by our favorite cereals. This could invoke a nostalgia play.
  • Popular Existing Flavors. What are the top ice cream flavors out there? Which ones aren’t served by protein bars? 

Unique flavors are powerful because they encourage repeat purchases. If someone’s a fan of one flavor, they’re going to want to try them all.

And for first time buyers, offering a “variety pack” of all flavors will do well. 

5. How Can I Deliver the Protein in a Different Way?

Protein bars come in the same standard, rectangular shape.

There’s a market for delivering the protein in a different form.

The first method would be to offer different packaging. Peanut butter usually comes in a jar.

Superfats packages peanut butter as on-the-go snacks.

Another idea is to not limit yourself to bars. People want protein. What other forms can you deliver protein in?

  • Protein peanut butter
  • Protein peanut butter cups like Reeses
  • Protein crackers
  • Protein rice cakes
  • Protein waffles 
  • Protein cookie
  • Protein ice cream

6.  What Are the Biggest Problems with Protein Bars?

My favorite protein bar is RXBAR.

I’ve always wondered what kind of “crap” companies put into protein bars. RXBAR makes a bold promise on their packaging. 

These are their ingredients. That’s it. There was a “transparency” problem with protein bars, and they fixed it. 

What other problems could there be with protein bars?

The easiest way is to research popular protein bars on Amazon. What are people complaining about in their reviews?

I did some research and came up with some ideas:

  • Someone wants a bar that’s easier to digest. They get upset stomachs whenever they eat one. Create one that’s plant-based and high in fiber.
  • Someone loves to take their protein bars on hikes, but it gets crushed and melted easily. The bars are individually wrapped in a harder plastic. 

7. How Can I Make Protein Bars More Functional?

I’m assuming most people eat protein bars as a convenient and healthy snack. What if the protein bar could contain ingredients that help them serve a specific purpose?

  • Survival Bar: People are into “survival” and emergencies more than ever because of COVID-19. Create one that’s designed to last longer than traditional. Their bars last for a year, ours is designed to last for a decade.
  • Sleeping Protein Bars: Some people have trouble falling asleep at night. It could be because they’re going to bed hungry. What if there was a protein bar designed to help you sleep. It’s easy to digest and has some sleep aid ingredients such as L-theanine.
  • Focus Bars: Contains Nootropics and caffeine. A better alternative to coffee and energy drinks. They help you focus and keep you full!
  • The Beauty Bar: Eat this protein bar to improve your skin. It’s full of collagen and retinol.

8. How Can I Create an Aspirational Brand Story?

People love stories. 

I was broke in college, and I needed a notebook. There was the generic one for $5. Next to it was the $20 Moleskine.

I went with the Moleskine even though I couldn’t afford it. This was the journal of Picasso, Van Gogh, and Ernest Hemingway. Maybe writing in this notebook would help me become more creative.

Buying it increased my sense of identity.

Think about what tribes would buy a protein bar and who they’d aspire to be like.

  • Viking Protein Bars: Crossfitters and Tough Mudders think they’re warriors. When the Vikings went to war, they brought along protein bars. These protein bars are based on ancient recipes.
  • Louis and Clark Bars: Hikers want to be like Louis and Clark. These protein bars were inspired by a recipe found in one of their journals.
  • Military / Patriot bars: I don’t need to do a search to know that there are military and patriot inspired protein bars out there. 

There’s who the customer is now, and there’s who the customer wants to become. The customers buy products to help them feel connected to their end goal.

It’s why some people are willing to buy Louis Vuitton even though they can’t afford it. It’s what they aspire to be like.

You Have More Ideas Than You Think

I haven’t always been in business ideation mode.

But I have spent over a decade generating angles and headlines. I’ve learned that the easiest way to generate ideas is through questions and formulas.

4 Profitable Headline Formulas
Angle Generation System

With this article, I wanted to show how I’d approach a competitive industry such as protein bars.

One more note: don’t be scared if your product already exists. Apple didn’t create the first smartphone. Execution is more important.

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