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New Products: The Real Challenge Is in Execution, Not Strategy

by Barry Curewitz  |  
December 11, 2007

Marketers love talking about products like the Swiffer or iPod, two colossal successes in terms of brilliance in innovation and new product development. In fact, rumor has it there are more consulting firms taking credit for Swiffer's development and success than can fit into the new Yankee Stadium.

The puzzling question remains: Why aren't there more examples of unabashed new product successes?

To gain insight, we recently implemented a research study exploring the factors that have an impact on a company's ability to succeed in the ever-important CPG growth domain.

Our survey, titled "Creativity in New Products, A Reality Check," queried 128 senior CPG marketers to gauge the challenges they face in growing their businesses as well as the strategies and thought processes they employ.

In planning the research, we theorized that new-product development efforts could be influenced by both strategic and tactical elements. Therefore, we developed a list of five strategic and five tactical pitfalls that could limit a company's ability to succeed.

Then, we asked participants to identify those issues that currently challenge them; those they addressed three years ago; those they expect to face three years from now; and which single factor occurs most frequently.

Based on our experience, we hypothesized that strategic issues would be the most relevant causes of new-product disappointment. We were way off base. We learned that, yes, there are strategic issues affecting the outcome of new product activity, but the more relevant issues focus on tactical elements—those things that can be addressed in the short term.

In fact, 63% of survey respondents identified tactical issues as the leading prohibitive factors in the development and launching of new products.

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Barry Curewitz is managing partner of Whole-Brain Brand Expansion (; reach him at

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