Price…Place…Process…Promotion…People. It doesn’t matter how many “P’s” there are in marketing, none are more important than the Big “B” in new product development. Especially in small- to mid-size manufacturing companies.
Technology can derail it. Manufacturing can demean it. Customer demands can dilute it. And the pursuit of opportunity for short-term gain can destroy it. If you let them.
So what is the Big “B”?
BRAND is one of the most valuable assets your company owns that is unique to you alone. It is the single most important element that will distinguish you from competitors on an otherwise level playing field. It can hold meaning and importance beyond the physical and tangible. It can stir emotional response and purchase preference, even in dire market conditions. It is, or should be, the one thing that allows you to hold a position of differentiated value in the minds of your customers and end users.
So remember, BRAND is the Big B. And within the new product development process, it is marketing’s role to be its ambassador, its advocate, and its sentinel.
The Brand Ambassador Role
An ambassador is an authorized official of one constituency, sent to be the representative of that constituency’s mission and values, in another. As such, marketing should constantly be communicating and reinforcing the position of the brand, showing how it can positively influence outcomes through every business function, including product development and engineering. This is a high level role—to make sure all stakeholders in the process understand the brand, its purpose, its unique qualities and benefits, and its value proposition to customers, end users, and partners.
The Brand Advocate Role
An advocate speaks up on behalf of another. In this role, marketing must be the champion of the brand, securing its rightful place within the new product development process. Marketing must argue the value of brand. How it should be a filter through which decisions are made in new product criteria development and design. How it should be one of the foundational considerations in a new product’s definition. Marketing must advocate that their company’s products, once purchased and used, become the most enduring communication of the brand and how it is perceived in the marketplace.
The Brand Sentinel Role
A sentinel is a guardian and protector. So marketing must be willing, if ambassadorship and advocacy fail, to guard the brand’s sanctity with everything it’s got. This is a role which requires courage, strength, endurance, and resolve. It may even require sacrifice. Not necessarily the “lose your job over this” kind, but certainly the kind that calls for a stand against larger and more powerful voices and agendas.
I’m not suggesting fisticuffs in the boardroom, but a willingness to don the brand’s armor and carry its shield is definitely an imperative in this role.
Your brand should be one of your company’s most powerful assets. In that role, it must build competitive advantage and deliver bottom line returns and growth to your business. It can do these things through new product development, if it has a seat at the table, a voice of leadership, and a place of respect.
It is marketing’s job to make sure that it does.