Collaborative Search for the “Big Idea” for Baby Boomer Consumers

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Six years ago, the University of Cincinnati unveiled what it called an “unusual consortium” between its students, faculty and corporations, including Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), the consumer-product giant headquartered nearby. The group’s goal: to research and develop product ideas for consumers age 50 and over.

“The world has never before seen such a powerful market,” with about $3 trillion to spend in the U.S. alone, the school said then. The segment’s needs were “underserved,” requiring a shake-up of models to find the “sweet spot” between those needs and what was feasible to produce.

They’re still searching.

“This consumer segment is one of the more difficult ones to open up in terms of needs and wants,” said Matthew Doyle, 57, a 30-year P&G veteran who led the teams that invented Crest Whitestrips and now serves as vice president of the innovation lab, dubbed the Live Well Collaborative. “No one was designing products just for them.”

P&G and a dozen corporate partners like Boeing Co. (BA) and Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International Inc. (MDLZ) have completed 37 projects, involving more than 50 university faculty and expert advisers, about 80 senior citizens who provide feedback, and over 500 students of design, architecture, engineering, business and nursing.

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