Can brand strategy influence new product development?

Crayons by Sir Fish / Emma I’ve been asked recently, on a couple of occasions, if brand strategy can inform the development of new products, services and offerings.

While those processes cannot be guided only by the brand, the two are more closely related than they may seem.

Companies today live in a world of abundance. One side effect of this abundance is that at any given moment, the amount of new offerings and product they can embark on developing borders on the endless. This is even worse when it comes to things like software features.

There are many analytical processes that can help choose between the possibilities.
Just as an example, something I learned from a Mckinsey consultant a couple of years ago: Two basic strategic factors that can support decision – relevancy to your audience and differentiation from competition.
If only relevance is there – you are merely creating market entry-cost offerings, of only differentiation is there you are dangerously close to investing in “fool’s gold” – new products and offerings that are highly unique and innovative but don’t really interest anyone (not anyone relevant, anyway).

However, even if you initially check both boxes (or choose other methods), you are still left with too many possible choices.
This is where your brand strategy can be tremendously helpful. A genuine brand strategy is not just a marketing communications tool, it is the essence of who you are and what you want to stand for. Therefore it directs both how you communicate and how you behave in the market. This means you can use your brand strategy to justify embarking on one endeavour over the other.

Steve Job’s Apple is an excellent example – not only every new product, but nearly every new feature they choose, is part of a wider outlook that has been driving them since day one. It may be that apple’s brand culture is so solid that they don’t even need it written anywhere.

With one client, recently, I have found that just figuring out the brand’s positioning helped them prioritise their (user & employee generated) feature wish-list, and how to arrange the features across their products.
With another, a company that was wondering which new areas to extend to, suddenly some choices felt right, while others were discarded.

A product and offering pipe-line influenced by your brand strategy, means your portfolio of offerings stands for something, that is – for both your present values as well as your vision for the future. This is why when we look at the offerings of truly great brands we identify even more of their significance then the in way they communicate.

After all, is anything a more powerful communication of your brand than the choices you make in what you create as a company?

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2 thoughts on “Can brand strategy influence new product development?

  1. Couldn’t agree more. We counsel clients all the time that quality is more important than the sheer number of new product offeriengs. Start with strategic planning, stay true to the “religion” of your brand and introduce products only if and when they are truly relevant to clients or customers.

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  2. Pingback: Marketing Babylon » Blog Archive » Foxytunes and Yahoo! fighting the good fight together

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