As my readers know I run a Consumer Product Development and Marketing Consulting Company. We review hundreds of Inventions, Innovations and New Product Concepts each year. These are submitted by individuals, small and micro-businesses, occasionally multi-national Companies and run the gamut from Foodstuffs to Sporting Goods to Giftware to Cosmetics. If it Sells in Retail Stores or is marketed to consumers we have probably worked in the space.
Recently we met with a group associated with a Men’s Fashion Accessory product. The group detailed that they had met with the Products Designer and were impressed with the innovation. They had decided to provide Venture Capital and Management services for the project. The people we met with were all successful, seasoned business professionals. Two had advanced degrees from prestigious universities. They presented us with the fruits of their labor on behalf of their investment in the Menswear product.
The group recounted how they had launched and failed in their attempt to self-market the items. We reviewed the Unit Packaging, Sales Collateral, Point-of Purchase Display materials, Branding, Marketing Strategy, Sales Model, Bill of Materials, and all of the elements that they had built to create the Market Launch. The outlook for the product, as presented, was glum.
This team had stepped into an area in which they had no expertise. Their success in other technologies and sciences had imbued them with a feeling of over-confidence in their abilities. They had never marketed a Consumer Product, a Men’s Fashion Accessory or sold to big-box retailers. While brilliant, they had overestimated their competence in the field they were endeavoring to enter.
They asked a number of times: “Is this a product”? Is there a business here”?
Our response on both counts was, “yes”. The product possesses the absolute requisites for retail commercial success, Unique Features and User Benefits. This they had in spades. The products performance features were a true advance. The group would have to arrange the deck chairs significantly though before the party could begin. The questions they asked should have been answered before starting to develop the line.
The due diligence that we always perform for clients had either been given short shrift or not performed. The initial investment had been squandered and a complete re-work would have to be managed before the product could be properly introduced to the Retail marketplace. Pricing was out of whack as Cost of Goods for the product was not based on volume manufacturing. No Focus Group had been conducted to confirm the assumptions that had been used to assemble Marketing and Branding Strategies. Sales Collateral and Point-of-Purchase Display did not support the Product Features and Benefits that consumers would need to digest before purchasing. Free Publicity was not being created to support the product. The Unit Carton Packaging was stylish but did not support the products intended uses.
This is a classic example of bright, successful people making really bad Product Marketing decisions because of hubris. No one knows it all. My area of expertise is very limited. I have no, zero mechanical aptitude. I am a lousy gardener. I have limited interest in science or technology. I always hire talent to fix my cars, work on my house, program my computer and tend my yard. If I wanted to attempt to rebuild an engine I would have to take a course and study before understanding and attempting the task.
It amazes me the number of people, usually very talented in many areas, that attempt to jump start projects in businesses or specialties in which they have no practical experience. Clint Eastwood’s famous Dirty Harry movie character once famously murmured to a villain, “A man has to know his limitations”. It can be a very expensive and painful exercise to dismiss this bit wisdom.