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Archive for June 16th, 2011

The Importance of “Instant Gratification” When Marketing Consumer Products

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The Importance of “Instant Gratification” When Marketing Consumer Products

I remember as a little boy the excitement of shopping for a new car with my father. Dad was a Chevrolet man. He always bought cars from the same dealership and the same salesman. We would walk the lot, climb into various models, review the stickers for price and features, and then dad would go into a little cubicle with the salesman and make the deal. 

This was always a big event at our house. And yet, we always left the dealership without the new car. Dad would explain that the car had to be ordered. The color or special feature or exact model he wanted was not in stock. In the 1950’s most new car dealers only stocked a few examples of each model on their lots. The concept of inventory floor planning and instant consumer credit that became so ubiquitous was several decades away. We had to wait for the factory to produce and ship the car, typically four to six weeks, and my father had to arrange financing on his own. Those six weeks were always full of anticipation. 

Needless to say this put a crimp in sales flow. When I bought my first new car in 1970 I clearly remember the difference between my experience and my fathers. I bought a 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado. The car was test driven, my old car traded, the deal negotiated, papers signed and I had the keys and was out of the dealer’s door with the new car in about one hour. The immediate benefit of instant gratification was obvious to me then, and is more obvious as a professional Marketing Consultant today. 

Marketers know that instant performance is a huge Sales benefit. Weight Loss Products always include specific Performance Guarantees.  Anti-Aging Skin Care Products show before and after photos of treated skin and include a time performance reference. Note how many products, from Car Polishes to Vitamins to Wellness Products use the word “Instant” in their Marketing Campaigns. 

Instant Gratification is expected in today’s bustling Consumer Product Marketplace. Consumers will desert Retail stores that maintain even a small level of out of stock items. Advertised specials must be available, and in sufficient quantity to meet demand. The explosion of consumerism that began in the 1970’s has only been possible because the supply chain has expanded to support the consumers desire to purchase and enjoy Consumer Products immediately.

Furniture manufacturers have always had a difficult time fulfilling the “Instant Gratification” demand. Chairs and Sofas are available in hundreds of colors and upholstering options. Case goods come in many styles as well. No store can carry such a wide variety. Ikea solved this dilemma by creating the concept of Mass Marketed “knock down” Furniture. Ikea did not invent “knock down” Furniture, but they perfected the commoditization of the product and the opportunity for consumers to select from a wide assortment and instantly take the item home in their van or truck. 

Tooth Whitening has become a big business in recent years. All of the major Oral Care companies, Procter & Gamble, Colgate and Unilever Market proprietary Brands of whiteners. Many shopping malls have storefronts that Sell Tooth Whitening services. Typically these products are used daily for up to 30 days to see results. 

Recently I saw a Tokyo retailer that was offering a product called Makeup for Teeth. Like Lipstick or Eye Makeup, this product is painted onto the teeth each day and is removed each evening by brushing. Application of the product provides immediate whitening, “Instant Gratification”, not 30 day performance. The product is sweeping across Japan. 

My Consumer Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm launches a number of new items for clients each year. We work in every Consumer Product category. In order to differentiate these products from larger competitors we often utilize a performance Feature and/or Benefit Marketing Campaign related to “Instant Gratification”. You must be able to demonstrate the utility of the product and substantiate the validity of the claim when using this Marketing Strategy. But it does work.

An Old Mustard Brand Teaches the Power of Marketing Exclusivity

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

An Old Mustard Brand Teaches the Power of Marketing Exclusivity 

The practice of Brand Exclusivity is one that consumers associate with Luxury Goods categories such as Cosmetics, Perfumery, Jewelry, Fashion or Automobiles. The Marketing Strategy utilized to keep product distribution limited, pricing levels maintained and supply levels tightly controlled is synonymous with Brands such as Estee Lauder Cosmetics and Fragrances, Bentley Automobiles, Gilbert Albert Jewelry and Balenciaga Haute Couture. The cost and rarity of these products contributes mightily to their desirability. 

My Product Development and Branding Consulting firm works with new clients to develop customized strategies for consumer product launches. More and more we are utilizing campaigns that employ key elements of Exclusivity. This strategy works, even for seemingly mundane products. Here is a famous example that has been applied to an item found in every household pantry: mustard. 

Most consumers would consider mustard to be a basic condiment. Sure, there are various styles, textures and colors of mustards. Most, however, would not think to apply an Exclusivity Strategy to Marketing a relatively common Food product such as Mustard. 

In 1747 Antoine Maille opened a store in Paris, France to sell his personally blended Mustard. The taste of Maille Mustard was so unique, the shop so successful that the store became a mainstay for French gourmands. In 1845 a second store was opened in Dijon. This is not exactly rapid expansion, but the limited production and availability of Maille Mustard products served to increase the Brand’s desirability for consumers. 

Maille Mustards are only available in original recipes from the two French eponymous stores. Owing to the potency of flavor, these Mustards are never over 10 days old when sold and must be consumed within 3 months for maximum taste. The original three styles of Maille Mustard, Chablis, Grape Juice and Honey, are still sold in the shops. Free tasting is encouraged. Batches of fresh pretzels are provided to make the sampling a most enjoyable experience. After the consumer selects their preferred style the Mustard is scooped and taken to packaging. The purchased quantity is placed inside special Maille crockery jars, corked for closure and wrapped in tissue. 

A milder, mass produced version of Maille Mustard is sold in the United States. Though slightly different from the original in taste, this style regularly wins taste competitions when placed against other mustards. 

The Company seeks to keep Maille Mustard unique, exclusive and highly desirable. This strict Marketing Discipline has enabled the firm to prosper. In keeping with modern technology and Brand Support the Company maintains a beautiful web-site, however, they have never allowed translation to any language beside French. 

This is an elegantly simple example of a 250 year old business that has taken a condiment and built a great Brand and interesting History by executing a classic Exclusivity Strategy. The two French shops are now tourist destinations. The small batch production is unique in an impersonal world of mass production. The customized assembly of the fill and packaging of the mustard in full view of consumers only adds to the products mystique. 

This strategy, employing Marketing Exclusivity, customized production and personalized attention to detail can be utilized by many artesian producers on a wide variety of products. It affords small businesses and Entrepreneurs the opportunity to compete and win against much larger competitors. This Marketing Strategy works and should be considered by more start-up businesses.

The Crucial Importance of Crude Prototypes in Launching And Marketing New Consumer Products

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

The Crucial Importance of Crude Prototypes in Launching And Marketing New Consumer Products

The most spectacular example of stunning product design extant in the world today must surely be on display in Marinello, Italy at the Ferrari Auto works. Ferrari is the apex of beauty; exclusivity, performance and technology, all bundled into one visually stunning work of mobile art. The famous Prancing Horse icon, seen racing down a winding road, attached to a Ferrari is one of the most beautifully alluring visions in the world. 

The legendary Ferrari, so rarely seen on the road or in showrooms is the highest form of world famous Italian design. However, like any other car, the Ferrari is conceived only after small scale models and prototypes are made. Typically the first prototypes are crafted from clay. Then they are critiqued, tweaked and re-worked. Only after much prototype development work is conducted is the car ready to go to engineering for planning and detailed design and construction. 

The Ferrari is never produced from a single prototype design. The styling group is always looking to improve and enhance the design. Even when the silhouette of the shape appears perfect, the designers continue to strive for perfection. This drive to make a “Ferrari” is what makes the car so desirable. 

Consumer Products that are considered “Hard Goods” are always evolved from prototypes. Established Companies with sophisticated Engineering and Marketing Departments intentionally seek “crudeness” in early design. This relatively undefined “alpha” model is purposely created to spark creative input. Product Design Engineers have learned that a near perfect or too finished prototype results in too much agreement and too little critical thought. It is criticism that generates improvement. 

Toy Companies always utilize prototypes to pre-test responses from children before entering production. Jewelry manufacturers use wax and then alloy prototypes to insure integrity and detail of design. Sporting Goods, Small Electrics, Sporting Goods, Packaging Components and Pet Products are made in the same way.

Another reason to produce prototypes through a “crudeness” cycle is to insure proof of product performance. A Consumer Product that must be built from tooling in the manufacturing process requires a significant investment. The cost of a crude prototype can be a source of great savings by confirming the Features and Benefits of the product before spending any monies on the construction of molds.

As the prototype is improved and finished it will take on the look of the go-to-market product that the Sales, Marketing and Branding departments will launch.

For Entrepreneurs the prototype process is crucial. My Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm works extensively with inventors and small businesses. The proper investment in obtaining a Production Quality Prototype is often an enterprise’ Achilles Heel. This is a reality that we must constantly restate. 

A few points that will reinforce the importance of securing Production Quality Prototypes: 

  • Decision  Makers expect to see a working model in shelf-ready shape
  • Garage, self-produced models demonstrate a lack of professionalism
  • 3D CAD art used to create Prototypes is essential in learning Cost of Goods
  • Manufacturing process requires a Release Packet based on the Prototype
  • Finished Prototypes are the model for Manufacturing Execution
  • We Pre-sell from Production Quality prototypes
  • Prototypes determine unit carton packaging options
  • Prototypes can be photo-shopped for producing Sales Collateral
  • The Web-Site visuals can be created from Prototype images
  • Do not expect the 1st prototype to be perfect, “crude” is a good 1st step

Multi-national Companies such as Toyota, Swatch or Unilever have extensive R&D and New Product Development budgets. Entrepreneurs typically do not. Nevertheless, the prototype development process will be the difference in whether most projects reach market. Do not skirt this step. There are no rewards for taking shortcuts.

How to Fail at Launching a Clever, Novel Consumer Product!

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

by:Geoff Ficke

How to Fail at Launching a Clever, Novel Consumer Product!

The current economic malaise has created a surprising level of interest from entrepreneurs keen to launch a bevy of assorted consumer products. Our Marketing Consulting and Product Development firm is reviewing more submissions than we have seen in years. Every product category from Sporting Goods to Health and Beauty Aids to Fashion and Jewelry and everything in between seems to be drawing inventors seeking to launch their creations

This article is being written with a bit of a sense of frustration. As a Mentor and Professional Consultant it frustrates me to no end to review truly interesting Consumer Products and opportunities and then to realize that the project will go no further, ever! Why do I make such an absolute statement? Because the owners are sloppy, or are dreamers, or naïve or seeking shortcuts that always insure failure. Here is an example. 

This week we reviewed a new concept for a revolutionary Golf club. The submission was an interesting tease. We love Sporting Goods, and novel Golf Products especially, are always in demand. The written description held out the possibility that there were some truly unique Features and Benefits attached to the proposed club design. We organized a conference call with the Inventor. 

On the call, after the introductions were concluded, we asked for a verbal Executive Summary (an elevator speech) briefly describing the new Golf Club and its design variants, the cues that made it different from Golf Clubs we all know.

The Entrepreneur and his partner were dispassionate, almost clinical in describing their novelty. Our first mini-red flag popped up. 

I then walked the designers through a series of fairly standard questions that we utilize to understand where the project stands. These included the following:

  • Do you have 3D CAD art?
  • Do you have engineering plans?
  • Have you submitted the design to the USGA for approval?
  • Do you have a prototype or plans to make test units?
  • Do you have a source to manufacture the Golf Club?
  • Do you know the cost to tool or create molds?
  • Do you know the Cost of Goods?
  • Have you tested the concept to prove play benefits?
  • Do you have a Business Plan?
  • What is your goal for Harvesting a Financial Benefit from the product?

The answer to each question, except the last, was exactly the same. No! The answer to the final question was the standard “we want to sell, or license or partner in order for someone else to commercialize this idea we have”.

The project submission document seemed to have some legs. If the described design really worked this could have been an interesting opportunity in the golf industry. But the owners had conducted none of the crucial due diligence required to successfully license, fund or sell a product or project. They did not have enough commitment to invest themselves in the program. They were all too keen to involve others. This insures failure.

The first clue that this group was not serious was their demeanor while initially describing the Golf Club. It was cold. There was no passion. Listening, my team did not sense that they possessed any real excitement about the club. Successful entrepreneurs have a real sizzle for their ideas and concepts. This is always an obvious tell. This group was simply looking for an injection of money.

The series of questions I asked are standard boilerplate. No matter what type of project you are developing you will be confronted with these sorts of queries (with minor tweaks) and you had better have the answers. If you do not have the answers, or need to find the answers, professional help is always available to lead the way.

Let’s examine the answer to the last question. This is the key. Harvesting a financial benefit from a project only happens to those willing to fully commit their time, energies and resources to a campaign. Filing for a Patent is not a Business Opportunity for Investors. Most Patents are never commercialized. This opportunity fell on the sword of laziness and lack of effort.

Decision makers (i.e. Venture capital, Investors, Merchant Banks, Strategic Alliances, Partners, etc.) are looking for projects and owners that will run through a wall to insure that their product receives every consideration. If it was easy to launch a Business Opportunity everyone would be doing it, and they are not.

If you seek and require professional consideration, do not take shortcuts. Do not guess. Get the facts and needed details. Support your assumptions. Be prepared to fight. The competition is spirited and only the truly gritty win.