The Spooky Rise of Ghost Innovation

The Spooky Rise of Ghost Innovation

You may not know it, but you’ll have seen ghost innovations on the shelves recently. It’s becoming more popular than ever among brands who are looking for a new way to capture imaginations. No, I’m not talking about a see-through yogurt or a floating deodorant – there’s nothing spooky about ghost innovation!

What is ghost innovation, you ask? It’s those weird, wacky, or downright strange innovations that appear on supermarket shelves with the aim of grabbing shoppers’ attention, purely by its oddness. It’s those weird products, flavours, or scents that stop you in your tracks, or make you giggle purely at the strangeness. Fabulous for PR traction – who can resist posting an Instagram image of Prosecco-flavoured crisps, with the hashtag #OverseenInWaitrose? – and sparks a moment of interest in an otherwise bland supermarket aisle.

But unlike traditional innovation, there’s no intent for this to become a mainstream product. Ghost innovations are typically seasonal or limited edition, and rarely make great sales themselves before they are replaced by a newer, shinier, more Instagram worthy version. If so, what’s the point – and is there really any value in this type of innovation?

Take crisps, for example. Over 70% of sales come from core flavours – nothing’s going to knock these off the shelf any time soon – but the attention-grabbing new flavours lure us in to purchasing one of our favourites, drawn in by the buzz. The innovation itself may be little more than a flash in the pan, but it draws the eye and keeps the shopper engaged – and Kantar attributes own label crisps’ 10.3% increase in volume in no small part to the sector’s commitment to innovation.

Ghost innovation is no spooky trick or gimmicky treat, then – it has real value, helping brands to establish what captures consumers’ imaginations as well as giving shoppers a chance to try something new. The result? Brands that truly reflect the ever-evolving shop shelf, keeping them on the ball when it comes to understanding their consumers.