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RaceFit Focus: New Product Development


Welcome to our RaceFit™ Focus series, a programme of content exploring the seven key building blocks that underpin a successful brand. The Red Tree’s innovative RaceFit™ programme launched earlier this year to help brands evaluate their fitness level. Easily completed in 25 minutes via an online platform, in an industry first, feedback is instant via a detailed, bespoke report full of expert advice, precisely engineered to get a brand RACEFIT™

In this article we are exploring ‘New Product Development’. With new routes to market, increased competition and consumers demanding the latest product innovations, never has product innovation been so important to drive growth, ensure your brand stands out and to keep your customers returning. But how to best manage the NPD process to avoid costly mistakes? Founded in 2001, Belinda Roberts heads up Snowbell Management, a London based consultancy specialising in the development and marketing of bespoke beauty brands. Belinda has over 25 years’ experience in the beauty industry in product development, marketing and international business development roles.

New Product Development Without The Costly Errors

Since starting my brand and product development consultancy in 2001, the industry is just as vibrant and fast moving as it was back then. With new, more flexible routes to market, the boom in social media and exciting developments in active ingredients and packaging, these changes have created more space for niche brands to thrive. Propelled by consumer demand, a growing and increasingly competitive market, never has product innovation been so important to drive growth, ensure your brand stands out and to keep your customers returning. Product Development sits at the heart of the business and with the pressure to deliver successful, state-of-the-art products in as short a time frame as possible, here are a few tips to smooth the process and reduce costly errors.

Product Brief

Once you have moved past idea generation, tested your concept and carried out all relevant research, prepare a detailed Product Brief for each SKU. This is both a creative and commercial activity and should include the main purpose and benefits, desired claims, technical parameters, cost target, markets to be sold in, pack style and so on. This is a collaborative procedure so get key stakeholders’ involvement and buy-in before you get underway in the lab or with the design team.

Critical Path

Essential to ensure you stay on track and manage expectations. But this isn’t simply a tick box exercise, managed correctly it should allow sufficient time to explore creative options within the parameters of the Brief, whether this is in packaging design or assessing different formulations or fragrances. Squeeze this time too much and you risk pushing through a sub-standard, compromised product. A simple spreadsheet with week dates along the top and grouped tasks down the left hand column is sufficient although more complex software is around if that’s your thing. Check progress against it weekly and ensure your manufacturer is in agreement with the key dates.

Decisions, decisions….

Keep decision making clear, tight and focused. Be clear about who is ultimately responsible for signing off key milestones, usually the brand owner.  Woolly approvals, changes of mind and inviting everyone’s opinion causes delays and can compromise the end product by trying to please too many people. As they say, a camel is a racehorse designed by a committee! Involve a wider internal audience at panel test stage, if that is part of your business plan.

Claims Substantiation and Regulatory Clearance

Do your research thoroughly on this and don’t leave it until two days before artwork is needed. All claims should be agreed, with the help of your chemist or regulatory consultant, at Product Brief stage. This can trip you up if you don’t plan this in advance and be careful of copying competitor claims, they may not have been verified or they may have clinical trial data to support their claims.

Product Development is an exciting, fast moving and rewarding part of the business and innovation and creativity are best served when a solid foundation of agreed processes are in place to optimise productivity and ensure what comes off the production line meets or exceeds everyone’s expectations, especially the consumer’s.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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