What makes a product successful?

7th February 2017

What makes a product successful?

Along with the numbers for next week’s lottery, a simple answer to this question would deliver instant wealth. Sadly, we only have detailed answers that don’t come with a guarantee, but they could still make the difference between rags and riches.

Success follows function

We can take it as read that any product needs to work, and it is often a legal as well as a commercial requirement. Successful products need to work well, and with a sense of quality that makes ownership and use a pleasure. Good manufacturers put a lot of time into making sure that the operational quality of their products is as close to perfection as possible. This can take months of design and test time, and is not cheap, but the rewards are spectacular - as Apple have shown. The mechanisms and approaches that deliver these results can also be used in other products, making the investment even more valuable. This is one of the many good reasons for developing a modular approach to product development, as we will see below.

Inexpensive? Yes. Cheap? No

Reducing cost does not necessarily mean lowering quality, but it will make your product more successful by increasing commercial competitiveness. It isn’t always possible, but it should always be an objective. For example, good design can minimise assembly time and modular approaches to construction can reduce both manufacturing costs and tooling budgets. Some of our projects reduced production costs by 25% by adopting a modular approach to construction, whilst improving quality and reducing product recalls at the same time. Possibly the most significant cost benefits result from considering a new product range as a whole and looking for ways to share components, production methods and assembly skills. This is only one of the ways in which a well-integrated product range will make your company more successful.

Coherence is good

Saving planning and development time. Sharing parts and processes. Reducing costs. Building a strong brand. These are just four of the ways in which the development of a coherent product range can make a company more successful. Car manufacturers are the experts at this, with shared parts bins, common platforms and design rules that apply to entry level and luxury models alike. Although most commonly applied by large companies, the benefits of a coherent product policy are particularly beneficial to smaller businesses. The cost savings and ‘big brand’ appearance that come with this approach can make a huge difference to the commercial impact of small companies, enabling them to punch way above their weight.

Innovate to accumulate

Innovation is a much-abused word that is often applied to the contents of gadget catalogues. Hair brushes that double as an egg whisk - that kind of thing. Real innovation can be technically ground breaking – like the Dyson hairdryer – but is often more like the approach used by the British Olympic cycling team – small changes that make a real difference to the way a product is built, used or recycled. Innovation requires a culture of constant improvement and development and is a vital part of any successful company. It doesn’t guarantee that your products will be successful, but it certainly improves your chances.

Ugly products don’t sell

With the exception of one company which was proud of its ugly technical equipment (they went bust), our clients have always wanted their products to look good. They are quite right – good looking products will always out-sell ugly ones. So, why am I putting this at the end of our list? Because good appearance design should be the result of synthesising all the other elements that deliver success – not just an attractive wrapping around an otherwise poor product. Good design incorporates all the other success factors – from function to cost, branding to innovation – and delivers it as a complete, integrated product.

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