Further insights from Colalife into design innovation – and how (not) to report it

Simon Berry blogs a nuanced account of how Colalife is changing its award-winning package – originally designed to use spare space in CocaCola crates – to deliver medicines to poor mothers in isolated Zambian villages, and how this has been reported. His headline: Our learning journey so far and accusations of failure and abandonment.

The original Colalife packs are still being produced, but a new design for Kit Yamoyo, under development, will not fit into the crates, because the real innovation turned out to be learning from Coke’s end-to-end value chain for distribution. As Simon says, the space was in the market, rather than the crates, and retailers were prepared to buy kits by the box-full. Coke crates were not the best way to get kits to the store.

In the end, hardly any of our kits have been put into Coca-Cola crates. Instead, what has worked is copying Coca-Cola’s business techniques: create a desirable product, market it like mad, and put the product in a distribution system at a price so that everyone can make a profit. If there is demand and retailers can make a profit, then they will do anything to meet that demand.

Simon adds:

We will not be abandoning the current design. Mothers like it. In fact we are about make up another 20,000 kits using this format – however, if we remove the design constraint of the kits needing to fit in the crates then we can reduce the cost of the packaging considerably which will make our kit even more affordable and strengthen the all important value chain.

However, when the change was reported, a couple of design magazines followed up with stories about failure and abandonment. Although the reports did deal with the value of learning from trials, the headline writers could not turn away from traditional mainstream news “values” to sell the piece.

The headline messages were: “They thought they were smart, but they got it wrong”. “They won an award, then changed the design”.

I recommend reading Simon’s piece in full as yet another example of openness and the sharing of experience in his reporting of the Colalife learning journey. I think he has taken the stories in good part, and by blogging a full explanation ensures that the reports become another part of the learning journey.

That’s a good lesson in innovation reporting: tell your own story, honestly.

I’m looking forward to the premier of the The Cola Road document that tells that story in detail, at the RSA on September 23. Details here, including a trailer.

I hope to grab an update interview with Simon. My earlier Colalife reports here.

Comments are closed.