‘New Product Development’ or ‘NPD’ refers to the process used to create a new product, often in response to the identification of an opportunity or threat found during a strategic audit.
New product development is critical to the growth of most brands. The term ‘product’ can be expanded to include services and content streams — the important thing is that something new is being created to service a need or opportunity that has been identified by a business. This type of investment also shows a company’s ability to adapt and can bring longevity to established businesses. New product development is now considered to be vital to the success of any business that wants to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.
From a brand perspective, this process will often look at how a new product will impact and expand upon a wider portfolio or naming strategy.
Recent examples of new product development work include the creation of EverWax Olive for Halley Stevensons, the 180 Table and 725 Table for Max McCance and the bespoke Duck Down range for The Feather Company.
There are many ways to bring a new product into the world. We use a tried and tested process that places creativity at the heart of any innovation.
There are two main types of opportunity identification; reactive and proactive. Reactive opportunity identification is when a business discovered there is a need within a market for a specific product offer. This may be brought to their attention during customer and stakeholder feedback sessions, market research, a strategic audit or less defined methods such as board meetings or discussions. These opportunities are then weighed up as to whether they are worth investing time and resources in. Proactive opportunity identification is a process of continuous innovation where brands use a mixture of trend forecasting, consumer behaviour analysis emerging technology, big data and other tools to pre-empt when an opportunity might arise in the future.
Apple, Google and Microsoft all have teams dedicated to exploring where the problems of the future might be, then devise possible solutions to try and head these off. A good example of this was the invention of the tablet; Apple identified that consumers had an evolving need for a larger, book-sized mobile device. The trend forecasting they uncovered stated that users needed much of the functionality of a smartphone but without the size and weight limitations of a laptop. Further to this, it was discovered that the large screen area would benefit from direct contact, expanding upon the touch-screen functionality into a drawing surface. New developments such as these are indicative of new product development, which is a continual process rather than a one-off event.
From here, it is important to qualify each opportunity and define how success might be achieved. This gives structure to the next stages, bringing clarity and focus to the creative process and driving positive outcomes.
With a clearly defined brief and a list of consumer expectations, it is time to bring the issue to life. Creative exploration will look at a wide range of ways to solve the issue, using a mixture of technology, innovation and design thinking to look at the problem. A typical new product development team will be made up of a mixture of skills from design, production, user experience and much more. This stage is key in shaping the different possible routes to explore and will help solidify the thinking for further stages. It is important that continual testing is undertaken throughout the creative process to help steer and refine the thinking. It is also essential that ‘bad’ ideas are also explored as you can often learn as much from ‘what not to do’ as with more sensible solutions. At LBD Studio, we always look at a problem from as many angles and perspectives as possible to build a solution that is well rounded and properly considered.
From here, the most effective ideas are selected to progress them formally. There will typically be between 2-5 ideas pursued at this stage, bringing them to a more complete conclusion, before then discussing again. Since new product development is a lot more than just the physical product or service itself, it is also about how the final product will be presented. This might take the form of worked up sketches and can even include print, digital or content examples to show how it may be received by an audience.
At this point, further discussion and review are undertaken to make firm decisions on the direction the company wants to take. It is advised at this stage to go back to the original brief to make sure each idea answers the problem originally presented. The best solution is often the one that most succinctly answers the brief. While the other ideas might also work well in certain situations, it is essential that the creative process remains objective and disregards anything that strays off-brief. This is a common mistake; seemingly good ideas regularly make it to market despite not meeting a brief or satisfying any real consumer demand. We advise that all energy is channelled into the most successful solution, with everything else being parked.
The prototyping stage focuses on the more detailed development of the final concept, bringing it into reality. This may involve extensive technical development and will likely go through several iterations before the final prototype is made. This can then be used to attract funding, sponsorships or other interest. Regular testing should be conducted throughout the prototyping process to ensure good usability with all the accessibility standards considered. These vary from industry to industry so it is always recommended a lawyer is consulted during the prototyping process.
Once the final prototype has been completed, formal testing can be undertaken. At LBD Studio, we recommend a mixture of consumer group testing with your target audiences alongside more formal testing. There are industry-specific companies that will test your product — for example, UserTesting will test digital products from a variety of perspectives and locations.
When the prototype is complete, it can also be photographed or accurately modelled for use across digital applications such as a website, social media and investor presentations.
The launch of a new product should be carefully thought through, making sure that the naming approach works alongside any existing portfolio architecture. Once these decisions have been reached, an appropriate level of brand creation can be explored for the product, bringing it to life for the market and audience identified in the original brief. We also recommend exploring brand identity principles and creating a coherent range of print, digital and content touch-points to keep your message clear.
To conclude, the new product development process begins with research and ends with delivery to the consumer but it really never stops there. New products must be monitored after they reach the market so that their performance can be assessed, and further follow-on work is planned (or scrapped).
If your business would benefit from a new approach to strategic development, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strategic audit is undertaken before starting new strategic work to ensure it uses a solid evidence base.