Business · Marketplace · Product Development

Primed to Win

Test markets don’t lie

All see their desired results

Debate best tactics


Short, burly Maury was the New Product Development team’s favorite chef/food scientist. For decades, he had consistently delivered original, delicious recipes on time, as requested, and with a smile, often with a creative twist that delighted taste panels and consumers alike.

Affable Maury and I respected and enjoyed working with one another — only having one major blow-up in all the years we worked together. (Our trusting, mutually supportive relationship was noteworthy in a highly contentious, deliberately antagonistic company culture.) A major new product line was set to launch in eight weeks. We’d enjoyed positive test market results and major retailers were on board to carry the line.

“Are you out of your mind?” Maury yelled. The bustling test kitchen went dead quiet. Every food scientist, chef, senior manager, support person, and marketing assistant stopped in their tracks to watch the show.

I explained that we needed at least two more varieties of the product line ready to launch at a moment’s notice. To do this right, we had to get started immediately on developing four or five prototypes. I’d already researched promising alternatives that would bolster our market position.

My easy-going boss urged everyone to calm down. He smiled and asked me why I was so sure that we were going to fail when consumers and retailers all liked what we had to offer. Maury’s dark eyes shot laser indignation at my lack of confidence.

No one breathed as I said, “I’m not worried about failure. I’m worried about not being able to respond to success. If this line works the way that we think it will, we have to be ready for it, have unique new offerings to establish our market share and change the game.”

After a long moment, my boss asked Maury and his team to work on new varieties. They came back with fantastic, delicious versions that ultimately helped bolster sales, gain new shelf space, and deliver solid profit to the company.

Product launch is the start of an ongoing business enterprise, not the glorious culmination of a harrowing slog through a swamp of trials, errors, and brilliant mistakes. Quick response, flexibility in tactics, and a good sense of humor ensure that you can both respond to the realities of the marketplace — and keep the Maurys of the world brainstorming, creating and developing with the crazy marketing folks.


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