Structured petfood product development as a strategic issue

The second of a series of conversations held at the fictional Feed Your Pet Inc. discusses how to reduce failure rate for new petfood products.

Part two of a series based on this question: Is petfood about marketing or nutrition?

The first meeting at Feed Your Pet Inc. (FYP) was another sign of the unstructured approach to new product development (NPD). People start to scratch their heads. Joe Zweifel (chairman of the board) and Justin Case (marketing director) meet again.

Joe: I wonder if our NPD approach is still up-to-date.

Justin: Why don’t you call it structured product development or SPD instead of NPD?

Joe: Indeed, why?

Justin: Because often product development lacks structure, and product development is always for new ones anyway.

Joe: Makes sense, but I continue to wonder if our approach is up to date.

Justin: The shortest and best answer is: no!

Joe: You’re best qualified to give me the answer; it’s your responsibility, after all. What do you plan to do about it?

Justin: I plan to start and put SPD in its strategic context and work from there.

Joe: Instead of what we are doing now—like, “We need a few new products, let’s make them.” Is that what you mean?

Justin: Exactly. Because I sincerely believe that with a bit more structure in our approach, we can significantly diminish the failure rate.

Joe: Looking at what we now spend on NPD, sorry SPD, that is a very attractive idea. What goes wrong nowadays?

Justin: To mention but a few flaws—have you got another 10 minutes?—I can spontaneously say lack of focus. Sometimes we were working on 50 odd different development projects. The development briefs are often so ambiguous that it looks as if we are working on a quack’s cure-all. The lack of a team that can commit and dedicate time to projects is certainly felt. For most, the SPD effort is “when I have time.” And therefore we fail in the execution, because we cut corners to be ready on D Day.

Joe: That sounds ominous. What about this ambiguity you mentioned?

Justin: Take, for instance, claims for which no proof can exist, or no clear positioning of the products, proposed brand messages that are obscured by a plethora of information, no clarity regarding pricing points, a list of deliverables that is way too long to be credible. Shall I go on?

Joe: So, are we talking discipline or approach?

Justin: Both, actually. With more discipline and a more focused approach, we can achieve much more in a shorter period of time. As I said, our failure rate is bound to drop.

Joe: Can you send me a memo describing the current situation and your recommendations?

Justin: I did so about a year ago, but at that time you may not have wondered whether our SPD approach is up to date. Product did not appear to be one of the priorities of the board. I am glad to see that this is changing.

Joe: Oh, before you leave, don’t forget to put the memo in its proper strategic context. The board will love that.

Justin: Consider it done. Without the proper strategic context, the memo would hardly make sense anyway.

To be continued …

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