This wonderful article about Lizard Skins' journey from college project to Major League Baseball made me think about true product innovation.
There are three kinds of “new” products:
- A brand tells a factory to put a new logo on something the factory already makes.
- A brand tells a factory to change the dimensions or colors of something the factory already makes.
- A brand develops a new material or a new kind of product altogether, and then figures out how to make it.
Number 1 is really hard. The brand has to figure out marketing, pricing, distribution, and customer service. This can take a year or more.
Number 2 is much harder. Now the brand has to do market research, product design, and product testing, in addition to the other stuff. Product sampling and iterations with the factory can add another year or two to product development, easy.
Number 3 is almost impossible. The company has to do the engineering, test the materials, piece together the supply chains, maybe even build a factory. Think Allbirds' wool shoes competing with a million synthetic sneakers or the first eFoil for sale at a surf shop. Number 3 might start with a PhD dissertation or an in-house innovation lab. It can take a decade or more.
Brands try to make every “new” product sound like Number 3. Most new products are 1s or 2s. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But when Patagonia brings a hemp jacket to market or Sway starts selling packaging made from seaweed, I hope customers understand and appreciate what that entails. I don’t buy too much new stuff myself, and when I do, I try to support truly innovative products and pioneering brands.
Our company is making something totally new too, and you can support real product innovation with a Nutshell Cooler of your own, featuring sustainable plastic-free insulation and a packable cooler design.