Why it matters

GSK, the global pharma brand, used an innovation framework developed at MIT and updated in partnership with Ipsos to speed up lead user-based innovation for its cold and flu products.


  • Lead users are those who are way ahead of the adoption curve to the point that they are often trying to solve the problem a brand addresses through their own ingenuity.
  • Understanding these users has long been key to innovation studies but this has been difficult to do quickly, cost-effectively, or at scale; machine learning with unstructured online data is changing that.
  • These insights can point to emerging ideas among lead users, which, overlaid with contextual analysis, can help to shape both communications and new product development.

It has become a truism that high barriers around a category make it difficult to enter, but what does this do to the category itself? According to James Sallows, Global Marketing Excellence – Insights & Analytics at the pharmaceutical firm GSK, it makes firms complacent.