An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye recently. On the surface, it doesn't look like much. But like most things, if we dig deeper and connect some dots, we'll see a major new trend emerging.

The article, "Campbell Soup Looks Outward For New Products, Ideas," speaks of the company's launch of a new company web site that invites innovative product ideas from entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors.
Most CPG companies, including Campbell's, have mostly relied on their own internal resources to develop new product ideas in the past. But major innovations and breakthroughs have been scarce, likely prompting this new course of action. Campbell spokesman Anthony Sanzio: "We have to be open to the idea that the next big product may come from someone sitting in their home office."
Right. And that includes rethinking current products that might benefit from improved flavor profiles, better nutritional profiles or new ingredient ideas for the company's brands; not only the launch of innovative new products.
As quoted in the WSJ article: "In the last decade, the broad consumer product industry has seen a dearth of big innovations, and most new product launches have been so called 'brand extensions' or versions of existing brands (products). Only 6% of new consumer packaged goods introduced in 2007 were new brands down from about 17% 10 years ago."
It's worth noting that a number of large CPG manufacturers have started turning outward to glean ideas for innovative new products. P&G's Connect & Develop program has solicited ideas from entrepreneurs and small businesses, for example, and I blogged about this not too long ago.
While the consumer products giant has consulted with outside sources in the past, it's important to note that "As of mid 2008, more than half of P&G's new products and technologies came from the outside, up from 15% in 2000."
While the move to solicit ideas from outside sources isn't a broadly based social media initiative, I love the idea of consumer product manufacturers collaborating with sources outside of their companies, even as they continue to encourage innovation from within.
I believe that outside perspectives and expertise can only add new ideas and dimensions to the product development process. There is real potential for exciting new products to come to the marketplace, as a result. . . products we might really need and really want to buy. After all, we're all consumers.
What do you think of this move on the part of Campbell's and P&G? Do you think it will lead to more ground-breaking new products and innovations?
What do you think of opening up web sites to entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists and small business owners for ideas?
Should these companies also add a section on these sites for consumers as well? Why? Why not?
Would you be willing to add your ideas to such a site if you could?
I'd love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni