Development Process and Ideas

The new product development process starts with the search for ideas. Some marketing experts believe that the greatest opportunities and highest leverage with new products are found by uncovering the best set of unmet customer needs or technological innovation. New product ideas can come from interacting with various groups and from using creativity-generating techniques.

Ideas for new products can come from many sources, such as customers, scientists, competitors, employees, channel members, and top management.

Customer needs and wants are the logical place to start the search. One-on-One interviews and focus group discussions can explore product needs and reactions. Griffin and Hauser suggest that conducting 10 to 20 in-depth experiential interviews per market segment often uncover the vast majority of customer needs.

Procter & Gamble emphasizes observational techniques with its customers. Brand marketers there spend at least 12 hours a month with consumers in their homes, watching how they wash dishes, clean floors and brush teeth and asking them about their habits and sources of frustration. They also have on-site labs such as a diaper testing center where dozens of mothers bring their babies to be studied. This close scrutiny has led to several new product successes.

To develop its Cover Girl Outlast all-day lip color, P&G tested the product on nearly 30,000 women; invited 500 of them to come to its labs each morning to apply the lipstick, record their activities, and return eight hours later so it could measure remaining lip color. The activities dubbed “torture tests” by P&G ranged from eating spaghetti to kickboxing to showering. The product comes with a tube of glossy moisturizer that women can reapply on top of their color without having to look at a mirror. The blockbuster product quickly became the market leader.

Technical companies can learn a great deal by studying customers who make the most advanced use of the company’s products and who recognize the need for improvements before other customers do. Microsoft studied 13 to 24 years old – the NetGen – and develop its three degrees software product to satisfy their instant messaging needs.

Employees throughout the company can be a source of ideas for improving production, products, and services. Toyota claims its employees submit 2 million ideas annually (about 35 suggestions per employee), over 85% of which are implemented. Kodak, Milliken, and other firms give monetary holiday or recognition awards to employees who submit the best ideas.

Companies can also find good ideas by researching competitors’ product and services. They can find out what customer like and dislike about competitors’ product. They can buy their competitors’ product, and take them apart, and build better ones. Company sales representatives and intermediaries are particularly good sources of ideas. These groups have first hand exposure to customers and are often the first to learn about competitive developments.

Top management can be another major source of ideas. Some company leaders such as the late Edwin H. Land, former CEO of the Polaroid, or Andy Grove of Intel, took personel responsibility for technological innovation in their companies. New- product ideas can also come from inventers, patent attorneys, university and commercial laboratories, industrial consultants, advertising agencies, marketing research firms, and industrial publications. However, although ideas can flow from many sources, their chances of receiving attention often depend on someone in the organization taking the role of product champion.

New product ideas:

Run informal sessions where groups of customers meet with company engineers and designers to discuss problems and needs and brainstorm potential solutions.

Allow time off- scouting time – for technical people to putter on their own pet projects, 3M allow 15% time off; Rohm & Haas allows 10%.

Make a customer brainstorming session a standard feature of plant tours.

Survey your customers: Find out what they like and dislike in your and competitors’ products.