10 tips to avoid epic NPD fails

So, business is good & you have decided that innovation will build customer value, frequency, spend, market share, whatever. The upside will be great, just remember, that you are about to break an equilibrium in your business, so tread carefully.

1 Its a team game

You want to keep your foot on the ‘business as usual’ pedal but innovation needs the whole company to be on board, for success. You may have an innovation leader but there is nothing like having skin in the game. Create a focused cross-functional team, with one representative from each key function, empowered to take decisions & have their say in the end product.

  • Design / Engineering / Technical
  • Marketing: Brand, Digital & Insights
  • Operations
  • Finance
  • Supply Chain (+Export)
  • Legal


2 There’s no monopoly on good ideas

Giving everyone their say is as important for getting everyone on board with an innovation mindset as it is to picking up great ideas. So start as you mean to go on, throw the ideation net wide, involve everyone, gather stimulus & suggestions from as many places as possible.

  • Supply partners
  • Customers
  • All employees
  • Related industries & retail – keep up with the trends.


3 Keep your eyes on the prize

Are you aiming for ‘best value’ or ‘best quality’?
Write a good concept definition & positioning statement up front. Check each decision you have to make, back against them to ensure that your product doesn’t stray far from the success criteria you identified.

4 Identify & manage road blocks

Roadblocks can be people! A new food product team, contained a top procurement manager. Despite this, his focus remained firmly on his bonused job objective, of minimizing the per-kilo price of cheese. His interest in getting best price for new ingredients was zero. This impacted the product cost hurdles, demand pricing & was ultimately a big factor in the product failure.

5 Build in time for failure

There’s a whiff of something new & suddenly the pressure is on to deliver, either to save someone’s bacon or just take the heat off another issue. Keep the pressure up to complete the process but don’t commit to deliver that product by hell or high water.

  • Beta Test/Test Market leaving time to change pre-launch  – don’t be bullied into a ‘soft launch & go’.
  • Keep ‘off the shelf’ back-ups. If ‘new-news’ is time critical, build your innovation pipeline, bank validated products to release as required & avoid shiny ball syndrome.


6 Walk in your customer’s shoes

Its amazing what you’ll find when you watch real customers using your products. UX testing is an essential part of on-line products. Beta testing ‘improvements’ with a group of engaged customers is good practice risk mitigation. Stuffed Crust, arguably one of Pizza Hut’s most successful new products was born from observing the waste after a meal & a customer calling their standard crust a ‘handle’!

Identical concept testing conducted in 4 markets – how different is our approach to declarative research & scoring!

7 Use data carefully

The saying goes that a marketer uses data like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support not illumination.

  • Use real consumers – the chairman’s ‘golden palate’ should not count!
  • Define action standards up front for ‘Go / No Go’ decisions & stick to them.
  • Build up benchmarks for comparison, absolute declarative data is unreliable for predicting appeal & volumes.
  • Research does not travel – different cultures have very different notions of awarding scores.
  • Beware the mainstream – the flavour with the broadest acceptance is generally tasteless!


8 If they can’t say it, they won’t ask for it

Copy-paste may work for google but not Siri, Alexa. Embarrassment factor will stop people asking at call centre or over the counter for something unpronounceable or derogatory. Mitsubishi’s Pajero & Mazda’s LaPuta are just two products which required renaming in Spanish markets prior to launch.

9 Think before you swim

There are more than just cultural differences between markets. Trade barriers are a minefield especially where foods are concerned, Japan is especially tough on additives. Shipping just about anything from Australia is expensive which may  fundamentally change the economics of your business model in another market.

10 Do a common sense check

Think through the barriers to entry. Can the competition make it faster, bigger/smaller, better, cheaper or sell it cheaper – if so, what’s stopping them?

BrandCents Consultancy is an independent Marketing Consultancy, specialising in multi-site retail, primarily in food and hospitality. See more about our services. Reach out for help with New Concepts, Products & Launches, Brand Transformation, growth & improving Customer Experience.


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