It’s easy to understand why, on their first foray into new product development, many people almost reach the end of the process before they start considering how they are going to brand and promote their new product. New product development is an exciting venture, which can be all consuming. The design, prototyping and manufacturing process is incredibly involved, but you’re missing a massive trick if you consider your product and its brand separately.
This is no chicken or egg situation. The age-old question, which came first, when it comes to our feathered friends, is yet to be answered. However, we can say with absolute certainty, that when it comes to the question, “Which comes first, the product or branding/marketing?” the answer is clear. The two are equally important and must inform each other.
What is a ‘brand’?
If we look in a bit more detail as to what a ‘brand’ is, then it will become very clear why brand development and product development need to happen simultaneously. Your product is, quite simply, an inanimate object. Your brand is what your customers ‘experience’ from your product. It’s what differentiates and distinguishes your product from its competition. It is your unique identity that people ‘connect’ with. It’s what your company and product stand for. Your values. All of these inform your brand and in turn your logo design, your packaging, your messaging and your marketing.
No audience no product
There’s an argument that says you can’t build a product without an audience. It would be a pointless exercise. However we are inclined to agree with Seth Godin, TED Talker and self-proclaimed “entrepreneur for the Information Age”, that in today’s digitally connected world, your product’s market already exists. It’s the job of your brand to activate, engage and lead your chosen market to your product.
When designing a new product, the key initial step, is to understand the product’s market i.e. the people who are going to buy it and the people who are going to use it. One thing it’s important to remember, is that these may be two different groups of people. If that’s the case your product, and its brand, need to appeal to both audiences.
Critical first-step questions
Either way, there are lots of questions a product designer will need answer to before he or she can even start thinking about creating concepts for the design of your new product. Questions such as, how big is your potential market? Does the product address a real need/desire or could it be a ‘solution looking for a problem’?
What need or desire does your product address? Is your target market made up of consumers or companies - or both? Does the product do something new and unique? If not, how is it better than the competition?
Can you profile your typical customer?
The more you know about your typical customer, the more your product designer can tailor the product to their needs and to what will appeal to them, in terms of features, ergonomics, aesthetics and budget, amongst many others. Critically this is the same information that will inform your brand. When it comes to defining your brand and its values, these have to resonate with your ‘typical customer’. When you consider that more than half of purchases are based on ‘emotions’, then product design and brand become synonymous. Product design reaches people through the sense of sight and touch. Brand takes this one step further and reaches emotions.
With your product and your brand aligned, you’ll perfectly positioned to take your chosen market by storm.