If you can judge a product marketer by the success of his clients, then judge Tim Girvin by his: Kraft General Foods, Nintendo, Nabisco, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Paramount Pictures and Hanna-Barbera Productions. Here, the owner of Tim Girvin Design Inc., an international brand and image management organization in Seattle, shares some product marketing tips that will work as well for small businesses as for his big-name clients:
1. Create a plan. Build a pathway for how the product will be conceptualized, developed, packaged, distributed and promoted. Having a goal is the first step to achieving it.
2. Design your product with care. Look for ways to differentiate your product using shape, design, consumer uses, simplicity and attention to detail.
3. Name it with power. A carefully considered product name is key to consumer recognition and recall. Poorly named products often fail because there is no memory connection. "Whatchamacallit" doesn't help you much in the marketplace. Great names build imagery in the minds of consumers.
4. Create impactful brand identity. Your product is your brand. The phrase "brand new" means "fresh from the fire." Think of your brand identity as creating a lasting impression that illustrates the spirit of your product. If your product is tough and durable, or delicate and soft, you should convey that.
5. Package your product creatively. Packaging is a message platform to channel your ideas to the consumer . . . fast! Make your package bold, a "fast storyteller" and reflective of your product's personality.
6. Own your colors. Choose an array of colors for your product and packaging that you can "own." Palettes that are too generic diminish your product presence. Aim to dominate your shelf position with color.
7. Look at the big picture. If you own a store whose products revolve around an entire concept, think of ways to create brand presence from the start. From the moment consumers see your shop, your uniforms or your vehicles, memory connections are built. Consumers have great memories if the imagery you provide is consistent.
8. Pay attention to merchandising. If your product will be sold on sales racks or distribution stands, create a structure that is easy for your distribution channels to use. Test it with them to confirm they are comfortable with your strategy.
9. Look for promotional alliances or partners. This doesn't necessarily mean that money has to change hands. But sometimes joint promotions are an easy way to piggyback products on each other.
10. Expand your offerings. A successful product array can include variations on a theme. Consider smaller or larger options. For example, the MagLite flashlight comes in sizes ranging from a key-chain model to a policeman's truncheon in scale.
11. Reassess. With the passage of time, your product may need refreshing. Is it time to change your product color, to look at more inventive ways to describe your product, to liven up your point-of-purchase display?
Depending on the market, some brands can last for 30 years or more, while others barely last five. Stay in contact with consumers, and use testing or customer reviews to see if your strategy is still working. If it's not, it's time to change!