If you don’t do it, no one else will. Why? Because no one else in your organization is trained to do it, or disciplined enough, or accountable enough to see it through.
“It” is The Five Brand Imperatives of New Product Innovation. Here’s how it works.
First think of any new product you recently purchased for your home or office. Unless it’s a paper clip or feather duster, you probably know the brand or the company who made it. Further, if it was a considered purchase, where you researched and evaluated alternatives, then I guarantee you either already had a perception and expectation of the brands you considered, or developed them during your decision process.
As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), you understand the customer journey and have likely addressed every point along the path: initial Google search, product advertising, web design, internet experience, product information, testimonials, social chatter, online or in-store merchandising, packaging, and purchase experience. This is all in your wheelhouse.
But what about the actual product experience—the first or the tenth or the seventieth time your customer vacuums the floor, drills a hole, or brews a cup of coffee? If your brand name is on that product, every time the consumer uses it, the experience will affect their perception of your brand. And if your products are for commercial, medical, or industrial use, that perception is even more important, because now you’re talking about productivity, profits, lives, and the very way our world works.
Every one of your designers and engineers wants customers to have a positive product experience. The product works like it’s supposed to, it’s reliable and effective, and it lasts. But, do these designers and engineers understand how to create products that positively build your brand’s unique value in users’ minds?
This is where you come in. Your role in new product innovation is to follow the Five Brand Imperatives of New Product Innovation. *
#1—Be Your Brand’s Champion
Let there be no doubt, you are the one who champions your brand at every touchpoint of the organization—including new product development and innovation. Bring up the importance of your brand in every conversation, in every department, at every level of the organization. Your brand should be one of the most valuable assets your company owns. Make it known that you intend to turn it into that, and then guard it, nurture it, and protect it. Do this and you will grow its value and prominence in the market.
For an overview related to this discussion see: Marketing’s Vital Role in New Product Development.
#2—Demand Insights About Your End Users
To build brand value through your users’ product experience, you must first understand how to improve their current experience. Then you need to design the solution that best improves that experience, delivering on the specific attributes of your brand that make it unique and valuable in their mind. To inform this process, you must delve into how your users act and think. The designers and engineers on your NPD team should participate in this activity, as well as marketing and product management. The insights you gain will fuel your success in delivering product experiences that build brand value.
There are many ways to gather this intelligence, but ethnography and user forums are two of the best. For an in-depth exploration of these research techniques see these articles:
10 Paths to Empathy with Your End User
Ask Good Questions, Get Good Insights
#3—Instill Your Brand in Your NPD Team
In order to infuse new products with design that builds brand value, your NPD team must first have a complete understanding and appreciation of your brand and its value. To accomplish this, coach them on your brand’s foundation. Articulate your brand’s Purpose, Pillars, Positioning, Personality, and Value Propositions as they relate to the NPD team’s target user.
For a discussion of how a design team can translate the elements of your brand’s foundation into product experiences that build brand value, see: Product Experience Can Propel Brand Value: Here’s How.
#4—Define Your Brand Experience
Building a strong brand foundation shows you the why and how of delivering your brand’s unique value proposition to your target customers and end users. But the foundation alone doesn’t define the experiences. The foundation provides the criteria for those experiences. It acts as the filter for evaluating and testing brand experiences.
Use your industrial design team to help explore, from start to finish, what the product experience should be in order to become a value-building brand experience. Help them define the experience and encourage them to develop a language of design that is specific to your brand and the value it embodies. The introduction of these elements into your products will then help build your position of differentiated value in the minds of your customers and end users.
For more on how to go about designing these product experiences and creating a brand language for your products, see:
A Marketer’s Utopia: Product Experiences That Build Brand Value
How To Build A Visual Brand Language
#5—Measure with Brand Purpose
The ultimate arbiter of your success is Brand Purpose. It is among the most important of your Five Brand Imperatives. Purpose in any organization is becoming increasingly important as customers and end users more selectively gauge their willingness to engage with a company’s products and services. It is evidence of the why. It is your raison d’être. And you can use your brand’s purpose to measure whether any experience you create is truly on target.
Ask yourself: Has the end user experience we have delivered moved us closer to fulfilling our brand purpose?
To initiate your thinking on purpose in NPD, see: Purpose Justifies.
As your company’s CMO, you carry a heavy load. Every experience anyone has with your brand should be one that builds brand value—and you are responsible for not only setting that expectation, but also helping every employee deliver on it. It is especially true in the product experience, as this is one of the most enduring experiences your customer has of your brand—week in and week out.
If the experience they have does not build value, then it probably detracts from it. So, apply your influence into the process using the Five Brand Imperatives of New Product Innovation. You will see substantially more success in building brand value.
* An assumption for the discussion of Your Five Brand Imperatives is that your brand is already current and relevant, and built on a strong foundation with well-articulated Purpose, Pillars, Positioning, Personality, and Value Propositions. If you are in doubt, please refer to Before You Market Anything, Develop The 5 P’s of Brand.