Launching a New-to-Market Product & What it Means for Your Start-Up
If you are thinking about launching a new product or adding a product to your line, one of the first things you may think about in regards to product development is how can I set myself apart? Due to the increase of social media and the rise in popularity of indie brands, the competition is fierce. This is why many founders are looking for ways to bring more uniqueness to their products to set themselves apart from the competition. What exactly does it take to launch a custom product that is not on the market yet, and what needs to be done?
Research the Market
If you have an idea for a product that is not on the market yet, you must do the research. Launching a new to market product has its advantages, but you want to make sure you are launching a product that solves an actual problem or is an improvement on other products. Launching a new product, and trying to fit it into a market that may not exist can be a costly risk that can shut your brand down before it begins. To figure this out, you can do research on your closest competitors by looking at their product offerings and their reviews, taking notes of customer feedback. Where are their pain points? Is there a problem that their product does not solve? You can also employ a survey company to directly ask consumers strategic questions about what they are looking for in a product. You will also want to tap into market data. For a fee, you can have access to data, trends, and annual sales of various markets in the personal care industry. This information is critical if you are creating a business plan for funding, as the investors will want to see the actual numbers versus your projections.
Does the product you want to come out with involve the need for a completely custom packaging solution that is not in existence yet? If so, there are a few things you need to be prepared for. Searching for the right company that has the means to produce your custom packaging takes time, and again research. Creating custom packaging is often a major expense, with high order quantities that can have requirements of 10,000-20,000+ units. If this is the direction you choose to go into, be prepared to pay for a prototype sample. You will definitely want a sample of the packaging prior to full commitment so you can test how your product interacts with the packaging. Failing to double-check this can result in purchasing packaging that is not compatible with your product, ultimately having to change the formula, or eat the cost of the packaging mishap early on. These types of mistakes can crush an infant company before it begins. Basically, the more custom the packaging design (shape, size, colors, function) the harder and more expensive it is going to be to obtain. Many brands end up coming to this realization later, choosing a more common packaging solution in the meantime.
Creating a product that is not on the market yet is a journey. If it is not on the market yet, there is most likely a reason for that. Not to say this cannot be done, but that it just takes more time, resources, testing/research and funds to develop which most starting brands may have limited access to. If you have a unique idea, you will want to discuss it with a professional cosmetic chemist, to make sure the goals are in reach. Always be sure to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement prior to engaging in conversation, to protect your company and its ideas. Making any major claims to your product will also require additional testing. Cosmetics dance the line with claims, but it is best to be straightforward and not risk vague language that can be misinterpreted by consumers.
Having a new to market formula or new to market packaging may also affect the manufacturing process as well. Again, we are looking at the cause and effect as it relates to Minimum Order Quantity and the process of selecting a manufacturer. If the formula is new, the manufacturer will want to create a sample or test batch, to make sure that they have the procedure of creating the formula down before committing to a large scale order. Most often, they will build this into the order quantity of the product unless there is an issue. Order quantities will also be higher than normal. Many times, a machine is involved in the production of and filling of products in packaging. If the manufacturer does not have the correct machines to accommodate your formula or packaging, they either will have to purchase this equipment, or they may not be able to accommodate your project due to the extra cost. Additionally, if the formula contains any ingredients that are not typically seen in formulas, the order quantity for this ingredient will be high. Usually in cases like this, if the manufacturer knows that the likelihood of using that ingredient again in another formula is low, they may request that you absorb the cost of the material in addition to their charges.
Considering a Cosmetic Product Patent
In order to patent a cosmetic formula, the formula needs to yield a stark difference to its competitors already on the market. The formula must be completely new, not already patented, solve a consumer problem, and be non-obvious to someone in the same industry. It is not wise to want to file a patent for your product until you have had your formula and packaging finalized and you are 100% sure about your product’s attributes. Patenting a product can take anywhere from 1-2 years as there are research and testing involved in this process. You also have to get the patent approved, just because you want the product patented, does not mean the patent will be granted. Usually, a cosmetic patent attorney will be able to review the details of your product and let you know if this is worth pursuing. You will want to speak with a cosmetic patent attorney to make sure this is the right decision for you, as well as make sure you have the resources you need to navigate this process efficiently. Gaining a patent usually means that you are only able to patent the product within the country you are residing in. Filing a patent worldwide is a whole other process handled by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).
Launching a new to the market product can be expensive and time-consuming, and even stressful. But keep in mind, if you have done the research and prepared yourself well, the pay-off can be totally worth it and put your company in a position of power among competitors.