Product Development and Design

Product development is the creation of new products or services, and the improvement of existing products or services. The process should result in products or services that people want to use or buy at a price that is financially desirable for the organization. The process that the organization goes through to develop ideas, determine which ideas are worthy of pursuing, develop the product or service, and introduce it to the market is the Product Development Process.

Product development is important to most organizations, regardless of whether they offer physical products or services. Getting these products to the market quickly, at a cost that is financially acceptable to the organization, with its quality and characteristics fine-tuned to market needs and in a way that does not damage the existing organization’s brand, requires sensitive management of complex processes.

Social media is having a profound impact on product development and design, and it offers the potential to significantly improve organizational performance across the range of product development performance factors.

To a child of the ’80s it still seems unbelievable that vacations today are researched and booked almost exclusively online. I remember visiting travel agencies with my parents. I can recall flipping through the glossy pages of snazzy magazines, always trying to sneak that Disney booklet into a place of prominence on the agent’s desk. I can picture how every “Sunshiny Holidays” guide was divided into country-specific sections, and hotels had a single picture depicting what they were all about. One picture. That was all. To help with the limited visuals were 5-7 sentence descriptions written by the proprietors themselves. So you’d thumb through the guide, gaze at the photos and dutifully try to convince your parents to choose the spot with the best-looking pool. All the while the agent typed away on her keyboard, telling you what was available and at what price. It felt like a simpler time, even if it was a comparatively powerless one for consumers.  Alas, I won’t be offering the same memories to my kids (hey!…remember when Mom spent 4 hours staring at her cellphone reading reviews for our one-day getaway to Great Wolf Lodge?). The limited technological sophistication available “back then” unfortunately meant very limited access to accurate, reliable information when booking a holiday. Transforming the Industry The transformation of the Tourism & Hospitality industry caused by the influence and upsurge of social media is nothing short of astounding. Approximately one-fifth of leisure travelers worldwide turn to social media platforms for inspiration within different categories of their travel planning including: Hotels (23%)  Vacation activities (22%)   Attractions (21%)  Restaurants (17%). Along with these sweeping changes, the Travel Marketing Industry has had to adapt to the ever-shifting landscape, finding innovative ways for determining how to create desirable experiences, and secure a high number of bookings. As early as 2011, Ryan McElroy, a recognized leader in the travel and hospitality industry, discovered that many travel agencies were still operating from old blueprints. They were missing opportunities to generate bookings because they weren’t harnessing the social media and digital platforms available. As a solution, McElroy created Travel Agency Tribes. Travel Agency Tribes is a SaaS (software as a service) company that creates all the technology required to make a travel agency’s online presence dynamic, easy to update, and adept at crossing all the new channels that today’s savvy travel consumer expects. This Canadian company has its ear firmly glued to the ground. It’s leveraging the very best that social media… Read more »

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward technology – not the other way around” – Steve Jobs There was a reason why the late Steve Jobs, co founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc  was so successful and revolutionary. He knew the importance of the customer experience first when developing his technology.    With the introduction of social media platforms in the last 10 years, companies have the opportunity to reach out to their target markets for comments and feedback in the development of their products.

Budget Marine is the Caribbean’s leading marine chandlery with retail locations throughout the Caribbean.  Budget Marine’s customers range from live-aboard cruisers, to power boaters, to megayacht captains & crew.  Right now, Budget Marine focuses on product promotions and education.  It does not use social media specifically for service development.   So, for this blog, I decided to write about ways in which Budget Marine can use social media as a tool both to engage customers and to enhance their presence in the market.

Climate change is one of the hottest topics in the news these days (no pun intended); and it is wreaking havoc on our oceans. They are now in a state of peril, from issues such as rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, leading to massive concerns like coral bleaching and massive marine life die off. Scientists are working to gain an understanding of what is happening in our oceans; the shoreline presents itself as one challenging zone to gather information on. “Researchers and scientists have been scrambling to obtain baseline information about changing ocean chemistry for the past several years, but collecting data in a nearshore environment like the surf zone with high-energy dynamics is not easy.” (Surfrider) “Science knows alot about the deep ocean, but the coast is a different story. Getting data in this surf zone is tough. Researchers call it a hostile environment, where sensors get tossed by crashing waves and buried in ever shifting sands.” (Today, 2016) Fast forward to today – three years and 30 scientists later … we have the Smartfin.  

The company I work for, FlashStock, exists today because brands are trying to connect with consumers and personalize their connection. This brand to consumer connection is driving the ever-growing demand for visual content across digital channels including social media. Reflecting upon the biology of the human brain and how its magnitude processes images 60,000 times faster than written text, it has been proven that major food brands such as McDonald’s, Nestle, and Blaze Pizza are turning to social media to promote their food on photo specific channels like Instagram and Facebook. The aforementioned brands, as well as many other large-scale global brands, are using social media to test and create new products that social media provides to a large community of consumers. These brands can test to the visual appeal of their products and the hype often surrounding these images has been referred to as “food porn”. Representing the necessity of food, for visual and sensual qualities in these images connects consumers as addicts for viewing it. This new concept of “food porn” is what excites and compels consumers to invest in the products being advertised. When the image represents the qualities desired by consumers and an individual’s network comments about it on social media, there is a higher likelihood that others will buy into its appeal. Many global organizations also use social media to easily learn and listen to the reaction of consumers regardless if the audience is reacting positive or negative sentiment towards their products. In 2017 McDonald’s Canada rolled out its “All Day Breakfast” however, consumers took to social media to attack the to be released Skor McFlurry which goes against an allergy free safe haven that McDonald’s is said to be known for. While McDonald’s learned more about what the public perceives them to be, it wasn’t the launch a new product they were hoping for. One other benefit to using social media for product development and research is the ability to test marketing with minimal cost and be able to pivot quickly to make changes. These types of negative events can cost a company revenue, but when done successfully, can present opportunities for dramatic growth. Overall, companies that are leveraging social media for product development and research are being able to bring products to market for appeal and interest much faster. Therefore, companies are realizing higher business performance or return on investment (ROI).

The amount of time, money and research Metroland Media has put into their products and services clearly shows. Having over 110 weekly and daily newspapers, numerous amounts of magazine publications, e-commerce websites, community news sites and many other online websites offering all distinct types of content and various properties, they know how substantial product development and design is. Innovation takes time, Metroland being industry-leading marketers, understand the innovation process, the amount of time that goes into research and development, and the strategy behind commercialization. Maybe this is why we haven’t seen the use of social media or the offering of social media services through Metroland Media yet.

If you’re using social media, chances are you’ve heard of Hootsuite. Founded in 2008, they have quickly grown to become the worlds most widely used Social relationship platform with over 15 million users. The dashboard interface makes easy work of social media integration. Plus, Hootsuite has a ton of blog posts with helpful tips and advice on how to make social media work for you and your company’s product development. How do they know it works? They use it themselves, and are extremely successful at it.

As an International Product Development Specialist with Dempsey Corporation, I know firsthand all of the tiny, painstaking, and highly particular details that go into bringing a product from ideation, to fruition, to the retailer.  From the initial RFP (Request for Proposal) to the actual proposals, to working with manufacturers, buyers and marketing teams, developing a single product can take MONTHS.  In a world of infinite ideas, how does anyone know what will sell?  A buyer’s worst nightmare is backing and investing in a product that flops – wasting value time, effort and resources that didn’t ultimately turn a profit.  And, as a product developer, a buyer’s worst nightmare is also my own.  If I don’t propose and develop products that stand half a chance of doing well for a particular client, my value as a developer plummets.  So how can I (and other product developers) help mitigate some of that seemingly impossible-to-predict burden?    Well, before the internet, we had to rely solely on visiting the brick and mortar stores, attending trade shows, setting up brainstorming meetings, and networking with businesses and people who were doing what we ourselves were trying to do – source, develop and buy products that will ultimately mean success for our enterprise.  Unfortunately for us, what is currently in the stores won’t necessarily be on trend next year, and word of mouth can only take you so far.  However, with the advent of the internet and the introduction of social media, my job just got a whole lot more interesting.  Let me tell you some of the ways I use Social Media in my day to day work as a product developer.

      Companies are like sharks – they have to keep moving or die; develop new products and services or improve existing ones. Without evolving product innovation, companies and products like Blockbuster and USBdrives can just wither away. A paradigm shift has happened In product development and innovation. Where once businesses marketed to their customers via broadcast channels (TV, radio, and print), now businesses broadcast using social media, highly interactive platforms which allow individuals, communities, and business to collectively share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. Social media has become a gigantic global focus group petrie dish, including blogs (Blogger), microblogging (Twitter), collaborative wiki-projects (Wikipedia), forums (Harley Davidson), professional networking sites (LinkedIn), social networks (Facebook, Google+), photographs (Instagram), and videos (YouTube) 1. What is the genesis for new or improved product ideas for business? It’s called “Open Innovation”2, a concept fathered by Henry Chesbrough, and is defined as “The formal discipline and practice of leveraging the discoveries of unobvious others as input for the innovation process through formal and informal relationships (it is the informal relationship that constitutes this innovativeness of open innovation)”. Companies are actively embracing Open Innovation, and they are relying on social media to help them generate, incubate, and give birth to new and refined products through an intricate complementary process of data-gathering, analysis, and customer communication. But what new tasks, disciplines, and organizational restructuring must communication professionals need now to consider turning Open Innovation into measurable and repeatable ROI on product innovation? Today, multi-national firms rarely innovate alone – there is a dynamic interactive process within innovative organizations to establish networks between internal and external entities, particularly in new product development3. More businesses are relying on “co-creation” to develop new or enhance existing products. The term, “co-creation”, signifies an active, creative and social collaboration process, facilitated by the company, between customers and company department producers. Customer co-creation, in short, is open innovation with customers. The idea of co-creation is to actively involve customers in the design or development of future offerings, often with the help of tools that are provided by the firm. Many excellent examples of case studies on social media’s impact on customer co-creation can be found in the University of Waterloo’s Social Media for Business Performance archives: Starbucks Ideas, Dell Computers, Dorrito’s, to name a few. But to create value from social media co-creation, firms have to develop dedicated processes to analyze its benefit… Read more »

Social Media may be employed to advance product development in novel, innovative ways and it is this potential that will inevitably integrate the social media world into the entertainment and communications business. This applies very much in the motion picture industry. As competition and the speed of the commercial world increases, film makers, like many industries, must adapt their traditional product development practices to meet this challenge. Product development is the creation of new products or services and the improvement of existing products or services. This is an essential element of corporate success. Product development defines the brand of innovative companies, and therefore their inherent potential and ultimate value to consumers and to shareholders. One has only to look at Google or Apple to appreciate this thought. Product development is also very risky, expensive and a time-consuming process. Yet the corporation or, this case study, the creative teams that do not explore this process, are doomed to stagnation and eventual demise. Even mega giant organizations such as MicroSoft, who have the resources to wait, then acquire the result of other start up’s development processes need methodologies and metrics to justify their acquisition, and diminish the risk of selecting one new idea or start up over another. A relatively interesting Canadian example can be found in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business issue entitled “Fall Guy”, where Christine Dobby in her study of Rogers recent business strategies suggests uncertainty amongst senior executives on Rogers controversial acquisition of the Vice brand of media properties. Traditional Industry Development A number of particular elements influence product development in the motion picture industry. Themes, ideas, story designed for specialized audiences drive motion picture product creation. Evolving social media platform technologies also define the shape and size of given product. Each product created, by its very nature, is a customized work or series of work, each project uniquely designed with singular content for a specifically defined market. Unlike Nike, who sells a singular shoe product, redesigned from year to year, but essentially the same shoe, motion picture content creators are obliged to create entirely original content with each product development cycle. This process of creating “customized one offs” unlike that Nike shoe, is then by necessity, expensive and time consuming. Combine this with a rejection rate of motion picture content and we find risk in the development phase to be unusually high. Very often smart… Read more »

Nowadays it’s hard to believe that there was time when the most popular webmail service – Google mail, i.e. Gmail, was available to the private “invitation-only” audience. Gmail – free, advertising-supported email service is a product from Google. Users may access Gmail services on the web or via apps on Android and iOS mobile devices. As of February 2016, Gmail has 1 billion active users worldwide. It is also the first app in Google Play Store to hit 1 billion installations on Android devices. In 2014 it was reported that 60% of US mid-sized companies and 92% of US start-up companies were using Gmail.

Dubai Autodrome circuit is one of the most modern in the world; it is also one of the most challenging, as it has a combination of high-speed straights and technical corners. The venue is part of the Union Properties Motor city development in the greater Dubai and area. Track experiences give the chance to sample race cars and super-cars through the Race & Drive Center – a perfect place to hone skills and develop better driving abilities.

Need for Development in the Cosmetic World A commonly shared fear held by most makeup enthusiast is having mismatched foundation, especially for people with skin that falls outside of the centre of the colour spectrum. People have different skin colours, textures, undertones and preferences as to how they want to wear their foundation. The variation of skin makes it increasingly difficult for brands to come out with products that could please the masses. According to one of the creators of MatchCo, “94 percent of women struggle to find a precise shade.” Point being, foundation matching is frustrating. Some experts have seen a shift in preference, as there is an increasing demand for more product information and a more customizable approach to foundation. For many people, a product that is sold on the counter just meet their expectations and usually a more accurate match of foundation is sought out. Besides the match itself, there is a charm to the idea of having a custom product unique to you. For foundation, it all comes down to how accurate the shade matching is. Product Development & Design MatchCo is a simple application that would allow you to find a perfect match within seconds, no makeup artists, human interaction, and no mismatched foundation. An invention that would enable you to find a foundation that fits you. Digital is driving beauty brands to get more personal than ever before, and that is exactly what the makers of MatchCo hatched with the help of personalization and technology experts, David Gross and Andy Howell, who have created a wide range of custom product programs for some of the world’s top brands. The rapid pace at which innovation in algorithms and colour matching technologies is taking place could be the key to making these services more accessible. The only drawback of the product is that there is only one patent formula that accommodates for individuals who are looking for a medium to light coverage. According to the creators of MatchCo, they were deliberate about creating one formula to master the perfect blend before entering the colour cosmetics arena.

Role of Innovation in Consumer Packaged Goods Developing innovative products for consumers is considered as one of essential marketing functions at Parmalat.  Product innovation usually plays an important role in life cycle of any consumer packaged goods company. Innovation is tasked to drive incremental volume for the company, keep consumer delighted with its products and provide retailers with increased profits opportunities. In Food Industry, major players, such as Parmalat, are literally expected to come up with new products every year to inject news and dynamics to the category and “protect” their shelf space at retail.

PowToon is web-based software that enables users to create animated videos, According to the PowToon website, “anyone – even if you don’t know a pixel from a proxy server – can create engaging, animated videos with a professional look and feel.” Four years after its launch in 2012, PowToon boasts over 10 million users worldwide who have created and shared more than 30 million PowToons. Product development is ongoing; company co-founder and CEO Ilya Spitalnik recently posted PowToon 2016 Year-in-Review: New Features & 2017 Spoilers on the company blog and social media channels. The product enhancements celebrated in this post were, of course, presented in a PowToon video.

Thirteen years ago Steve Brooks was a husband, and a new father, married to a synchronized swimming coach.  As a graduate of Sheridan College’s Graphic Design diploma program, Steve had taken many photography elective courses and was now a camera and photography hobbyist.  Steve enthusiastically took photos of his wife’s synchronized swimming teams to help with the local club’s promotional material.  This is how Brooks Photography began. Recognizing that parents enjoyed seeing action photos of their athletes, then Markham Synchro president, Nancy Chan, suggested Steve take pictures of all competitors at the upcoming Central & Northern Ontario regional championships.  The photos were a great hit, and soon Steve was at all Synchro Ontario competitions as the official photographer of Synchro Swim Ontario. Taking action shots at synchronized swimming events began to make Brooks Photography a household name in synchronized swimming households.  Parents and athletes alike followed Brooks Photography on Facebook.  Wanting to take the business further, Steve started as second shooter at weddings.   Once he started sharing those photos on Facebook, he began getting phone calls requesting him to be the main photographer for weddings.

With roots dating back to 1943, Ikea has a history of creating affordable home furnishings for families in over 50 countries around the world. Ikea has 500 stores worldwide. Ikea’s vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people.  The Ikea business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at affordable prices. Ikea makes it their mission to understand customer lifestyles. Before creating any product, Ikea works tirelessly to understand its customers so that products can be created with the sole purpose of making life easier and better.  Over the last several years, Ikea has incorporated various social media tactics to engage customers and to generate the feedback necessary  to continuously improve and evolve existing products and  to create new innovative products. Ikea is committed to solving real needs for life at home and customer feedback is absolutely critical to the successful development of its products.  Ikea has been welcomed in the homes of countless families around the world in their quest to understand human behaviour patterns.      

IBM is an American technology company with its headquarters in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware, middleware and software, and offers hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology. IBM is also a major research hub that holds the record for most patents generated by a business enterprise for 24 years in a row. In 2001, IBM introduced the Jam concept in the form of a social computing experiment to engage its workforce. This was completed via a web-based, moderated brainstorming session. Starting in 2007, IBM opened the sessions to external organizations similarly intent on fostering innovation through online cooperation. IBM’s Innovation Jams have been used by governments, academic institutions, businesses and other organizations to address proposals ranging from employee involvement, urban development, to global community engagement through public service. “Jams drive IBM’s research mandate forward. IBM uses the most cutting edge technology to glean information from the data collected. Jams bolster organizational value as specific recommendations are provided to the participants upon completion. Jams are the most effective style of crowdsourcing as they target groups of people with common goals.” Christopher Murray, Technician in Development, IBM

We have all stood in front of the closet thinking that you had nothing to wear.  Wishing that someone would design clothes that worked with your lifestyle and listened to what you needed. With Titika couture those thoughts are just a hashtag away from becoming a reality.

New Balance is a privately owned shoe and athletic equipment manufacturing based in USA and England.This Brand founded by William J. Riley more than 100 years ago and has a history longer than Nike, Adidas and some other athletic manufacturing businesses in the market. Not that the company started by manufacturing fancy suede sneakers from its start but, through selling arch supports to firefighters and police officers at the beginning, became more and more popular lately for its quality and unique design. This brand is competing with other mega athletic equipment manufacturing such as Nike, Puma, Converse, Reebok, Adidas, and other similar companies. Same as Nike, Team New Balance has been using social media as one of the secondary platforms to communicates with its customers and get voice of its customer to; A) Understand the product gaps and put together necessary action plans to respond to the market demand, and B )To identify the success of different product launches by getting feedback from its customer. On social media, The number of “likes” or “shares” is somehow a representation of how successful its customer has accepted the products in the marketplace.      

The New York Public Library (NYPL) was founded in 1895 and is the United States’ largest public library system. Today, the NYPL consists of four scholarly research centres and 88 public branches, located between Manhattan, Staten Island and The Bronx. The NYPL holds more than 51 million items within it’s collection and serves more than 17 million patrons annually; from scholars to public school students, to seniors and toddlers. The NYPL is a centre of educational innovation and a community hub that is vital to New York culture. Statistically, one in three New Yorkers do not have at home internet access and the NYPL works tirelessly to close this digital divide. In the rapidly advancing digital age, the NYPL provides patrons (not only at their physical locations in New York), but also individuals worldwide, with powerful online tools to discover their resources and services. Through their website, visitors can browse the NYPL collections that include 800,000 digitized items. The NYPL also offers online librarian support to answer visitor’s questions online at any time. To further customer engagement, the NYPL offers 67,000 free programs annually. To quote the NYPL President & CEO, Tony Marx: “The New York Public Library has provided essential access to books and information for more than a century. Today, we are building on that legacy by increasing access to our collections physically and online, and by transforming our libraries into proactive centers of education and opportunity for all New Yorkers. ”  

Want a personalized home?  Too many that would sound like a dream, but now it is a reality.  With the tools available through social technology consumers are looking for opportunities to be more involved in the production of the goods and services they receive. In the paper A New Consumerism:  The Influence of Social Technologies on Product Design  Ian de Verve argues that “Social technologies have led to the imminent promise of unprecedented user participation and collective content generation, sharing and personalization.”  It is noted that historically it was not economical to personalize each product in a large scale production environment given constraints in the production process, and in the efficiency of getting  individual consumer input.  Given advances in social technology the opportunity has emerged to personalize the final product through consumer input.  This new method of development provides a more emotional connection to the final product as an individual’s tastes are ultimately considered.

A powerful component of social media from a business perspective is the ability to listen to what consumers are saying. Social listening technologies are available to track conversations around specific phrases, words or brands. As a result, companies are able to identifying new opportunities that may not have been on their radar, and many are responding with innovative product development or design. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been costly and time consuming to gather focus groups in order to gain feedback. But today, this valuable market information can be gathered in a matter of minutes—assuming of course that people are in fact talking about your brand. The food industry is a specific sector where product development is critical to success. There are a number of reasons why this specific industry is constantly creating new products or innovating existing ones. I chatted with my colleague, Karen Proper, who is a technical manager in the product and process development department at NSF International to gain more insight on this topic. Karen and her team work with clients in the food and beverage industry to help bring a product concept to life, overcome production challenges or to innovate an existing one. When asked why product development is so integral to business, especially in the food industry, Karen replied, “Product development keeps companies competitive in the marketplace, compliant to regulations, able to react to ingredient and manufacturing process changes, and also responsive to trends and consumer demands—all of which are critical to success in the food industry today.”

When it comes to credit cards, it’s no longer just a choice between Visa, Mastercard or Amex. Consumers are now tasked with selecting the reward program they want partnered with their cards ( Air Miles, Scene, WestJet, etc.). While the reward programs may be a nice addition, if you’re like me, you aren’t concerned with reward programs and you certainly aren’t willing to pay a yearly fee in order to receive them. You just want a credit card with a low interest rate and no bells and whistles. And this is how Barclaycard Ring Mastercard was created.

Are you familiar with Itty Bitty Ballers? I think they’re hysterical. When I saw the tv commercial last month, I knew I had to have one! I immediately went to www.ittybittyballers.ca and – to my surprise, of the nine original figurines, six were sold out! But what is the story behind this viral internet success? GoDaddy, the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to empowering small, independent business ventures, has just closed out their Itty Bitty Ballers campaign featuring Toronto Raptors center, “big man” Jonas Valančiūnas (JV). The campaign was focused around JV’s mythical business, www.ittybittyballers.ca.  The site displays his nine lifelike figurines that capture him in action poses, such as riding a Raptor, dabbing, and giving high fives.  GoDaddy positioned our 7’0 centre as spending his spare time creating these miniature works of art. This juxtaposition was amusing and intriguing enough to drive customers to want to adopt the itty bitty JV’s as their own. Two of the nine figurines sold out the day the campaign launched, and then once the campaign went viral on social media, the remainder sold out in less than 24 hours.  From the outset, the advertising campaign (seen both on tv and online) seems comical, but through their product promotion, the team at GoDaddy managed to virally promote the ease of their solutions while supporting a small local business… all through the power of one itty bitty baller.