Will Your New Product Innovation Succeed?

Point: Use a simple formula to evaluate a design

Story: “Italian design” sparks images of beauty, the Renaissance, craftsmanship. Alessi, a leading Italian design firm, has been creating products for the home for three generations. CEO Alberto Alessi describes the company as an artistic mediator, bridging the highest possible expressions of product design with customer dreams. Given such intangible goals, how does Alessi access whether a new product design will succeed?
Alessi has a 4-part formula:

  1. Does it speak to the customer? (Do customers say “oh, that’s beautiful”?)
  2. Does it help the customer express a core value? (For example: simple yet elegant; uniqueness; earth-friendly)
  3. Function
  4. Price

CEO Alessi developed this formula after evaluating 300 of his firm’s products and asking why some were big successes and others were fiascoes.

Action: Look back over the portfolio of products or services that your firm has produced. Are there patterns in which ones succeeded and which ones failed? Use these commonalities to devise your own formula, or try Alessi’s.

For more information:
Interview with CEO Alberto Alessi in the McKinsey Quarterly

About Alessi: http://www.alessi.com/

7 Comments »Innovation, Metrics, New Product Development

7 Responses to “Will Your New Product Innovation Succeed?”

  1. Melanie Mulhall Feb 18th 2009 at 06:42 pm 1

    This is good advice. We know that we must note the benefits to the customer in our marketing material. We know that if we price ourselves too low, potential customers will be wary and if we price ourselves to high, they will bolt–straight into the arms of our supposed competitors. But I love the idea of looking at my product/service designs from the standpoint of whether or not they speak to the customer and whether or not they help a customer express a core value. It is important to my work that it do these things and seeing it so elegantly (that is, simply) stated has me looking at my own drawing board. Thank you.


  2. Priscilla Feb 19th 2009 at 09:22 am 2

    Hi, Andrea, I like the appeal to the customer residing there at the top of the list. And one big measure of that appeal is beauty. My first trip to Italy is coming up this summer, and I can’t wait to soak up what one friend expressed as the essence of her recent trip there: “Everything, from the humblest shop front to the most expensive window, is arranged so that it is beautiful.” A commitment to beauty and aesthetic grace does not, I am afraid, reside so closely at the center of American values–which may help to explain why most Americans want to move out of cities and toward the country. The functional landscapes Americans build for commerce–landscapes that are often ugly (think the strip mall)–may be contributing to our problem of suburban sprawl.

  3. Andrea Meyer Feb 19th 2009 at 06:10 pm 3

    Thanks for your comments — I see that the idea of values resonated with both of you, whether it’s designing products that help a customer express their values (Melanie) or visiting other cultures to absorb values & ideas that will inspire back home (Priscilla). Thank you for your feedback and insights.

  4. lawrence berezin Feb 28th 2009 at 05:58 pm 4

    I think the format of your posts are terrific. Love the story part. What resonated with me was whether your product/service struck the core value of a customer. My takeaway here, is to market our product/service in a way that triggers a emotional response in our customer.

    For example, I’m involved in a business of fighting parking tickets. The emotional chord I try to strike is freedom. Freedom to use the streets and to park without unreasonable regulation. So, it’s fighting for your freedom that I’m trying to sell. Much prefer selling simple yet elegant.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my opinion and learn from others.

  5. Andrea Meyer Feb 28th 2009 at 06:17 pm 5

    Larry – what an inspiring way you’ve found to articulate the core value of your business! The shift is subtle but effective. “Freedom” definitely strikes a much stronger emotional chord and inspires action. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  6. Graham Hill Mar 2nd 2009 at 07:24 am 6

    Hi Andrea

    Great blog post. And just after I had finished reading the MxKinsey Quarterly article too.

    Alessi’s four factors are an interesting way of looking at things from the customer’s perspective. They describe different types of jobs that customers want a product, service or experience to do for them.

    The first two factors speak to emotional jobs: how the customers wants to feel about themsleves and to a lesser extent to social jobs: how do others want to perceive the customer. The last two factors speak to functional jobs: what do customers want to achieve. There is also a fourth category of job, namely additional jobs: what other things do customers want to achieve, that Alessi doesn’t refer to. These are often very valuable sources of innovations.

    Rather than looking at previous products and trying to spot common factors that you think drive success, I suggest that you are much better off trying to understand common factors in terms of the different types of jobs – functional, additional, emotional and social – that customers want products to help them with.

    Our vision is so much clearer when we look through our customers’ eyes.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator

  7. Andrea Meyer Mar 2nd 2009 at 07:48 am 7

    Thanks for your insightful comment on how to look through customers’ eyes when evaluating new products!