Huggies Diapers Nurture Crowd Innovations

Published Mar-09-15

A diaper company’s inspired open innovation program yields brilliant new products from its consumers.

Kimberly-Clark, United States

The Story:

Huggies Diapers Nurture Crowd Innovations Nearly 70 years ago, the disposable diaper was invented by Marion O'Brien, who was dissatisfied with the options available at the time to keep her baby dry. So she invented a product that is now sold in its millions every single year. But diaper innovation doesn't have to stop there.

Investment in Open Innovation

Recognizing that their audience of moms may also have ideas of ways to improve diapers and other childcare products, Huggies instigated its Mom Inspired Grant Program. Every year, it offers incentives to parents to come up with new product ideas or for extensions of existing products. But not just diapers, it's for any product that will help with the care of children.

Huggies is owned by Kimberly-Clark, which is also behind Kleenex and Kotex, and is a leader in numerous markets. It is a multibillion dollar enterprise with a presence in more than 100 countries and recognizes that innovation is a key to keeping it that way. The company knows that the next big hit could come from outside its four walls, just as much as inside them.

The diaper company selects up to 8 parent entrepreneurs every year and awards them $15,000 to work on their innovations. "We know from experience that innovative ideas and products come from real life experiences and we are proud to continue to support these parents," said Nick Weiland, Huggies brand manager.

Grant Winners

To date, more than $500,000 has been awarded over the last five years. Among the parent-inspired innovations are:

Romy Taormina, a 2011 grant recipient for Psi Bands. These are acupressure wrist bands to relieve nausea associated with morning sickness. According to Huggies, the product is now sold by more than 13,000 major retailers across the United States.

Greg O'Sullivan solved an unmet safety need when he invented KidSwitch which lets children turn light switches on and off without the assistance of a parent or the need to climb on anything. It is a light switch extender that fits over an existing wall plate and extends down from the switch.

Leslie Espowe came up with the idea of Lucky Ducky, a versatile infant carrier to give Moms a safe, hands-free way to hold their baby in the pool or shower.

Lisa Cash Hanson's grant-winning concept is the world's first smartphone interactive pillow for babies and toddlers. The soft pillow goes around the baby’s middle while they are having their diaper changed, and it incorporates a smartphone so they can watch their favorite movie or cartoons. The aim is to stop babies and toddlers from wriggling all over the place during changing time.

Listening to Consumers Yields Results

Kimberly-Clark is eschewing the old idea that product innovation can be driven by sitting in focus groups and asking consumers a selection of questions. They actively invite their audience to submit brilliant ideas, then invests in them.

The Moms Inspired program is open to any parent over the age of 21 who resides in the United States. It demonstrates a real commitment to open innovation and the Huggies audience. Not only does Huggies give seed capital, but it also provides intellectual capital in helping brilliant ideas get off the ground.

Huggies is part of a growing trend that is seeing more consumers talking to company R&D labs and boardrooms to get their concepts on store shelves.

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