With New Product Development, Give Yourself Permission to Play

Asia’s a big place.

Yet when it comes to new product development many companies continue to look at it as a single market. Sure, we have the usual segments: age; income; location. But there are so many other ways we can slice and dice the market. It’s often these lesser-known approaches that yield some of the more interesting, successful results. That’s why when it comes to new product development, you should feel free to give yourself permission to play.

A good starting point (or a refresher for those already working in the market) is to take a look at flavour profiles across the region. This can even apply within a single country, as well. Take China for example. There really isn’t such a thing as “Chinese food”, per se. Various regions have their own very unique tastes when it comes to food. That means your products can mimic these tastes to attract local audiences. From the sweeter flavours found in Shanghainese food, to the spiciness of Sichuan, and bold, rich, meaty tastes of the north, Chinese palates are a varied bunch. In fact, there are traditionally eight different flavour profiles across the country. If your products aren’t reflecting these tastes, they are potentially missing a huge part of the market!

What about looking at localised adaptations outside of just the taste of your new products? Consider, perhaps, the eating habits of people in a particular area. In some parts of China, including Hubei, people like to eat standing up. This is especially true at breakfast. Brands have also done a good job of adapting their products to the pace of life in places like Shanghai, offering on-the-go options easy to eat with one hand.

Given the size of the Asian market, you can also consider hyper-customisation. In most places around the world, even thinking about that would make developers nervous because there is usually far too much risk for the possible pay off. In Asia, though, there is a willingness among consumers to try new things, plenty of niche groups to test on, and pretty large segments to play with. Maybe you have an idea for a product targeting urban street culture. How about all-natural camel milk for health-obsessed millennials or water in edible packaging for eco-conscious city dwellers? In a consumer market as large as Asia, the distance between just dreaming up a concept and actually executing it is sometimes quite small.

Giving yourself permission to play when it comes to new product development not only helps target segments of the market often ignored by other multinationals, but helps you stay ahead of the competition. Market competitiveness is growing exponentially, especially from domestic players. These companies know all about the need for local flavour profiling, regional adaptations, and hyper-targeting. For them, these are all major considerations in the NPD process. When you stick to the same old approach to NPD, you’re giving the competition a major leg up in the market.

Itching to get started? Here are a couple more tips from us at TSI.

Remember, innovation goes beyond just product and pack. Perhaps there is a bigger innovation opportunity in nailing new messaging or communication platforms.

  • Look to adjacent categories as potential sources of inspiration.
  • Be willing to let go. Sometimes letting go of those restrictive brand guardrails can inject new life into NPD. This is especially important in Asia, where brands can little afford to ignore disruptive thinking.
  • Start small. Test, learn, and iterate in smaller test markets before you make your big break. Large scale rollouts are great, but they’re even better when successful.
  • Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. In Asia, you have to be quick and nimble. Look at ways of shaving months off your traditional NPD process or else you might be fighting a losing battle.

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