Online Exclusives

Building a Link to Innovators

September 6, 2006

Reckitt Benckiser goes online to reach out for innovative ideas in household and personal care product development

Building a Link to Innovation

Reckitt Benckiser is using the worldwide web to build a link with innovators.

By Tom Branna

Editorial Director

Getting effective new products to market fast is the goal of every consumer product company. But while competitors are content to toil away alone in their laboratories, Reckitt Benckiser is casting a wider net—the internet—in search of innovation partners. With annual sales of $7.6 billion, the UK-based company bills itself as the largest marketer of household cleaning products in the world with a product mix that includes such well-known brands as AirWick, Woolite, Lysol, Dettol, Vanish, Calgon, Spray ‘n Wash, Clearasil, Strepsils and Veet, but now the company wants to expand on its leadership position.

Airwick and Lysol are just two of the best-selling brands from R-B.
Innovation will play a key role in the company’s drive and to strengthen its position, Reckitt Benckiser has launched the RB-Idealink program with the goal of developing innovative products from outside the company. At the website,, potential partners can interact with Reckitt Benckiser to find out more about the program and download literature and learn about the concepts behind the new program.

“We are successful because we innovate quickly. In fact, about 40% of our sales come from products that we launched in the previous three years,” explained Diane McGrath, global head of licensing, Reckitt Benckiser. “That’s a good track record, but we also realize that we don’t have all the answers and we can learn from people outside the company.”

According to Ms. McGrath, innovation at Reckitt Benckiser means more than technology and science. It must deliver consumer expectations of performance, convenience and value for money.

“Great launches like Cillit Bang, Vanish Oxi, Veet Rasera and Airwick Freshmatic have driven our top line growth significantly,” she observed. “These headliners have been complemented by many more innovations which year after year drive the growth of our power brands.”

A Streamlined Innovation Process

Prior to the launch of RB-Idealink, anyone with an innovative idea was welcome to submit it to the company, but Ms. McGrath admitted that a novel idea could get lost as it made its way through the corporation. Clearly, there was a better way and company executives realized that the internet could facilitate an effective exchange of ideas.

“RB-Idealink helps people find us and helps us process their ideas objectively,” observed Ms. McGrath.

The Search Is On

Although breakthrough products can impact just about any product category, Reckitt Benckiser is specifically looking for innovative ideas in several key categories, including:

•  Bleaching;
•  Dye/color;
•  Surfactant/detergent systems;
•  Progressive release systems;
•  Malodor counteraction;
•  Devices/dispensing systems;
•  Surface enhancements;
•  Fragrance;
•  Novel sensorial effects;
•  Antimicrobial;
•  Enzyme technologies;
•  Engineering and process;
•  Skin and hair care systems; and
•  Health care

Although RB-Idealink is still in its infancy, company executives have been satisfied with the response from innovators.

“From the submissions I’ve received so far, I’ve been pleased with the applicability of the ideas,” said Carl Clayton, technology sourcing manager. “It looks as though 70% of entries have potential application.”

Mr. Clayton noted that Reckitt Benckiser has utilized a third party innovation model for a number of years and insisted that RB-Idealink is a way to expand the network and broaden the company’s horizon.

“It’s advertising, not a cultural shift,” he emphasized. “We just want to expand our network.”

For now, company executives are busy pouring over the ideas that have come through the internet initiative. There are no targets in place regarding the number of ideas that RB-Idealink is expected to generate.

“The more we publicize it, the more innovators we reach and the better the response rate,” explained Mr. Clayton. “We’re committed to getting back to potential partners in three months, which means we work quickly. After all, our goal is to access new ideas as quickly as possible.”