Eastman is a traditional chemical company — producing additives and polymer pellets that are sold to compounders and extruders.
We had just flown in for the first client meeting. As we passed a plant, our host pointed up to one of the stacks and said, “That’s the problem you’re here to solve... There’s nothing coming out.” Eastman had an excess of cellulose ester and was rarely running at full capacity.
Creating pull for their products was next to impossible given their lack of access to end customers like Proctor & Gamble. Even more challenging was the fact that the actual specifier of their material (a product designer) was often someone from a small design house working for the larger CPG. And, young product designers knew virtually nothing about their “old” material.
They needed NewEdge to find new applications / opportunities for cellulose while reinventing the business model.
\ Our Approach
Designers needed to be introduced to and engaged in co-innovating with Eastman’s materials.
We couldn’t find new applications by talking to current users, because Eastman didn’t have the right customer base. So, we tapped into our ecosystem of several thousand people and challenged industry participants, influencers, observers to look broadly across end-markets and create ideas. And, they did — new opportunities included everything from specialty “scent carrying” fibers in lingerie to innovative packaging.
Our ecosystem exploration illuminated more than new product ideas. We also discovered a previously unarticulated need — that many designers lacked knowledge about materials because they simply couldn’t read a spec sheet. To combat this, we created “visual and tactile spec sheets” via sampling systems and tools that enabled designers to learn about and connect with cellulose in more engaging ways.
Through this process, we built brand new ecosystem for Eastman — the one that they really needed in order to deliver continued innovation.
To keep the collaboration and education flowing, we developed a sustainable engine for opportunity generation and co-innovation — a dedicated site at eastmaninnovationlab.com to talk to designers in an easy-to-understand and highly visual way, inspiring them to innovate via case studies, concepts and contests.
The Innovation Lab led to true transformation. In less than five years, Eastman gained more than $400M in sales through the site. It also served as the catalyst for a major rebrand. Once a commodities provider, Eastman has effectively repositioned itself into a specialty products partner.