The trouble with television programmes like High Street Dreams and Dragons Den, is that they only provide a
‘snapshot/soundbite’ of branding and the product development process, making it all appear oh-so-easy to the average ‘personon the street’. In reality, it’s a complicated process and there are a number of steps involved that should be considered before even thinking about approaching a branding or design agency and spending ‘hard-earned’ cash.
At Design Cognition we routinely get approached by all manner of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have very limited experience of branding and New Product Development (NPD). So we thought that we ought to provide some ‘pointers’ for those of you new to this arena, to get you to ‘stop and think’ and focus on what it is you are actually trying to achieve! It’s not in your interests or ours to develop products that have a high probability of failure.
So here are some fundamental questions to ask yourself, before you even think about branding & packaging:
What is your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’? – It is important to establish your USP at the outset so that you know what makes you different and how you can position yourself versus competitors.
What about your ‘Emotional Selling Proposition? – People don’t usually buy on logic, they buy based on many complex emotional feelings and triggers. This could be based on their aspirations or to help alleviate a problem. Tapping in to these emotional benefits will help bring your brand ‘alive’, build long-term customer relationships and help create differentiated ‘competitive advantage’ for your brand.
Who are your target market? Can they be segmented? – Generally, the narrower you can ‘cut’ the segment in which you are intending to operate, the more specifically you will be able to target key benefits & marketing effort in a particular niche. Be realistic about the size of the potential market. Reaching a global market on day one (or even in the first year) is usually a ‘pipedream’ and can take many years to achieve (if at all). It is best to concentrate initially on one smaller market (that you are familiar with) and use that as a valuable learning exercise.
Market Research – Why will someone buy your product, as opposed to someone else’s? Get an impartial view on this
(not friends & family – because they will tell you what you want to hear). You are too close to your cherished product and need to avoid myopia and ‘rose-tinted’ spectacle syndrome! A new methodology is gaining popularity in the US called ‘Customer Development’, which focuses on intelligently assessing the opportunity for an idea before developing it. In its simplest form, customer development could be summarised as:
- Customer discovery: What need is your initiative going to fulfill for the user? Is that really important to them (or is it just wishful thinking)? Do you offer a credible solution or are other alternatives more compelling?
- Customer validation: Are users willing to take the desired step, whether it is to try a sample of your product, buy it or try your affiliated services?
- Customer creation: How are you going to reach out to new users, build your audience base and build confidence? What are the costs and (measurable) outputs for each of your activities?
- Company building: Do you have the resources and processes to achieve the desired goal? Do you have the right skills yourself to brand, develop, market, sell and produce your product? If you haven’t got the skills yourself, it’s critical that you ‘buy-in’ the relevant expertise to help. It may seem an expensive approach but will avoid expensive & time-consuming mistakes, get you to market quicker and will pay ‘dividends’ in the long-run. However, with all of this information you should assess whether there is likely to be a reasonable return on your organization’s investment of time and resources (your own +/or bought-in resource)? No-one said that building and developing a brand would be easy – did they?
A useful tactic in customer validation is to market a product even if you haven’t built it yet. This “pre-marketing” of a product can help you assess the potential viability of the idea before spending a fortune. If it’s going to be a ‘flop’, it will inevitably be disappointing, but best to know early and ‘kill it’ before spending too much money – and turn your attention to more ‘valuecreating’ ideas.
Even if you think that the idea is strong, your target audience might not agree. There are a number of online tools that can help you test ideas, including:
www.performable.com: set up quick web-based landing pages, highlighting product benefits & see how they perform
www.usertesting.com and www.silverbackapp.com: put your project in front of users and get high-quality feedback
www.surveymonkey.com and 4Q: survey your users. But remember that people aren’t always objective in their responses
Or set up a temporary ‘outlet’ in an area in which your target market will congregate, such as a shopping centre, gym, sports club etc to talk to ‘real consumers’ face-to-face.
Many companies start by selling their products on-line, which can also provide useful feedback and can be ‘dovetailed’ with social media campaigns to build brand awareness and feedback. Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are also very useful for marketing tests, and can give you useful information about the possible cost of an advertising campaign.
Who are your potential competitors? – Important that you know who they are and what they are doing. Don’t just assume that you won’t have any. Who is operating in an affiliated area, with an established supply chain, that could migrate easily? This also gives a steer on your branding and packaging as you may need your product to ‘fit’ a certain category and yet still have stand-out.
How easy will it be for your competitors to copy you? – If your competitors are large and they take a liking to your product it might only be a matter of weeks before they launch a similar product. Have you engaged the advice of an IP attorney and:
a, undertaken an ‘IP’ search +/or
b, thought about ‘protecting’ your own idea?
If it’s as new, innovative and differentiated as you think it is – isn’t it worth protecting? It is critical that you do this earlier, rather than later. It should be your first task – before leaking your ideas into the ‘public-domain’.
Have you decided a target selling price? – What price will the market bear? At what price are your competitors presently selling? How will that affect where you pitch your price?
Have you considered who will produce & fill your products and where? – Are they being produced overseas? How will you manage supply? What leadtimes? How will you control the quality?
Have you calculated product costings? – What is the estimated cost price? How accurate is that? Does that include packing/filling/assembly? What about shipping? Does it include primary, secondary, transit & Point Of Sale (POS) packaging? If you will be selling through a distributor, have you allowed for their margin? What about retailer margin?
Have you considered any legal regulations relating to your product? – You will need to know what regulations will apply to your product in the specific country in which you want to sell. Any illegal claims or weights and measures could entail a hefty Trading Standards fine and/or a product recall, with all of the associated costs and litigation involved.
How are you going to distribute the product? – If you are hoping to sell into one of the large multinationals you may well find that they routinely take from 3-4 months to pay for goods received. How will you fund the first production run of your product? If you are intending to ‘pitch’ to their buyers, what stimulus material will you need? What benefits will you sell to them?
How are you going to fund the development of the product? – Getting a good looking and legally compliant product to market does take money. There may be grants available but you need to take a realistic look at all of the costs involved and consider how you will pay for them. At the end of the day the old adage ‘you only get what you pay for’ is true and developing a product or brand on a ‘shoestring’ in a ‘half-cocked’ manner will only end in disappointment and failure for all concerned.