The new product development process – a best practice guide

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It is commonly agreed that up to 95% of new products across all categories end in failure, whilst the figure for the grocery sector is estimated at between 70-80%. 

Brandspeak provides new product development workshops and research programmes for large and small B2C and B2B clients in the UK and internationally, on pretty much a weekly basis.  

Whilst some brilliant innovations get launched having had little or no input from the consumer, most successes are the result of rigorous, new product development processes that have put the target customer firmly front and centre from the beginning.  

In this article we outline the broad stages of a simple, customer-driven new product development approach that does just that. It won’t guarantee that your new product or service will be a success, but it will guarantee that your organisation doesn’t waste time, money or opportunities by undertaking product innovation the wrong way. 

The 5 stages of new product development

There are 5 broad stages in the process;

Each stage is described below.

Stage 1: Opportunity Identification

The success of a business’s innovation capability depends on its ability to identify a continual stream of product or service opportunities with which to prime the new product development process.

At this stage, each opportunity can be defined in a simple statement comprising just a few sentences which together address;

  •  The nature of the perceived gap (or opportunity) in the market
  • The reason for the existence of the gap

Tip; Very few opportunities actually make it to the end of the innovation process and become new products or service, so the more opportunities that are identified at this stage, the better.

Stage 2; Ideation

The Ideation stage typically comprises one or two creative workshops with the stakeholder team.   Their purpose is to enable the exploration of each opportunity, with the aim of identifying one or more ideas in relation to each.

The success of the overall stage relies upon:

  • Immersion – the ability of stakeholder participants to free their minds from the confines of their day jobs 
  • Customer-centricity – either including consumers directly in the ideation process, or by ensuring individual stakeholders adopt target consumer personas 
  • Creativity – a series of exercises designed to really explore the opportunity from a number of different perspectives
  • Open-mindedness – a refusal to reject an idea that emerges just because it is ‘left field’ or somehow difficult

At the outset it can be really helpful to produce a map of the market place corresponding to the area of opportunity, in order to better understand the interrelation between the;

  • The usage / consumption occasions
  • Associated consumer behaviours and needs (both conscious and latent) or need states
  • Existing brands; propositions, features, benefits – and weaknesses

The insights for this mapping exercise will typically come from the participants’ own knowledge and data.  If significant knowledge gaps remain, these can be plugged by:

  • Specifically-commissioned, contextual research (e.g. mobile ethnography or survey)
  • Market safaris undertaken by stakeholders
  • Additional workshop exercises

The completed map can then be used as the basis for a number of creative exercises designed to identify fulfilment gaps; those places where there is (latent) consumer need but little or no brand presence.  

It is in relation to these locations that idea generation is often most successful.

Ideas should be identified in terms of:

  • The nature of the fulfilment gap 
  • The underlying occasion
  • The (unfulfilled) consumer needs or need states 
  • The outline proposition to address them 
  • Reasons to believe that the proposition will be successful

Based on the above, concepts can be scored on their potential. 

Tip; Key here is to identify as many ideas as possible, and then filter them at the end of the exercise, so that only the most promising are taken through to Concept Development

Stage 3: Concept Development

The Concept Development stage comprises more creative workshops, during which the  individual ideas are further evaluated on a stop / go basis.  The workshops can be run on a co-creative basis, including consumers.

Those ideas that pass are then expanded upon significantly, to turn them in to fully-formed concepts, typically by adding;

  • A detailed description of the proposition, including features and benefits
  • Consumer demographics
  • Key occasions and needs / need states to target
  • How the proposition will address those needs / need states 
  • Reasons to succeed

Depending on the nature of the concepts in question, further detail can be created, to help bring the concepts to life, potentially including mood boards, branding, packaging, web page designs etc.

It is during the Concept Development stages that the concepts are also sense-checked / challenged in detail for the first time, in terms of their technical, operational and commercial feasibility.  

Those that are deemed unworkable in their present state are either rejected, or returned to the Ideation stage to be re-worked.

Stage 4: Concept Evaluation 

Each concept is now sufficiently robust to be evaluated and refined by the target customer, usually using either qualitative research and / or co-creation in the first instance.  

The purpose is primarily two-fold; 

  • To assess and refine thinking to-date, with members of the target audience
  • Obtain an initial read on the commercial potential of individual propositions

Following the consumer’s input, a further round of concept refinement and filtering may take place.

At this point quantitative research may also be undertaken, in order to quantify the appeal of each remaining concept and its component parts – including pricing. 

Any grey areas can also be addressed at this point. 

The remaining concepts may be submitted for final Concept Approval or pushed back in to Concept Development to be developed further.

Stage 5: Concept Approval

The concepts are now ready for executive approval.  Their potential should now largely a given, due to the nature of the development process they have undergone, and the likely involvement of Executive stakeholders at different points along the way.  

At this point, decision-making is more likely to be based on financial modelling which should clarify the short-term cost of launching and supporting the new product or service, as well as the longer-term ROI.

Brandspeak innovation specialists

Brandspeak has years of innovation research and workshopping experience, across a wide variety of B2C and B2B sectors.  If you would like help developing your new product development process, running creative workshops or undertaking new product development research, please call Brandspeak on 0203 858 0052 or contact us at




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