Jul 25, 2023

Imitating and Deviating: The Twin Engines of Product Development

The secret to successful product development lies in striking the right balance between imitation and deviation.

Imitating and Deviating: The Twin Engines of Product Development

In the realm of product development, there is often an ongoing debate: to imitate or to deviate. While it might seem as if these concepts are at opposite ends of the spectrum, they are both crucial components in the journey of product development. Understanding how and when to employ each strategy can give brands a significant competitive edge.

Imitation: Learning from Success

Imitation is often the starting point of many innovations. It can be as simple as incorporating successful elements of existing products into your own, or more complex such as adopting another brand's successful business model. By leveraging proven strategies, brands can mitigate risks associated with product development and market introduction.

Take Amazon's Echo for example. While it wasn't the first smart speaker on the market, Amazon looked at existing products, identified areas of improvement, and built a more user-friendly device with a broader range of functionalities.

Imitation doesn't mean creating a carbon copy of existing products. Instead, it involves recognizing successful patterns and incorporating them in a way that adds value to your product, thus providing a solid base upon which to build.

Deviation: Creating Unique Value

While imitation can help reduce risk and provide a solid foundation, deviation—creating something new or different—is what sets a product apart. Deviation enables brands to tap into unmet consumer needs, opening up untapped market segments and creating unique value propositions.

A prime example of deviation is Dyson's bagless vacuum cleaner. While there were plenty of vacuum cleaners in the market, Dyson's bagless design and cyclone technology were game-changers. By deviating from the traditional design, Dyson was able to command premium pricing and establish itself as an innovative brand.

Deviation requires creativity, deep understanding of customer needs, and a willingness to take risks. However, when executed properly, it can result in groundbreaking products that redefine markets and build brand equity.

Imitating and Deviating: Striking the Balance

The secret to successful product development lies in striking the right balance between imitation and deviation. Imitation allows brands to leverage proven strategies and reduce risks, while deviation enables them to create unique value propositions and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Understanding your brand's strengths, market position, and consumer needs is key to knowing when to imitate and when to deviate. Moreover, it's crucial to remember that imitation and deviation are not one-off strategies but ongoing processes that continue through the product lifecycle.

In a world that is increasingly competitive and consumer-centric, successful product development relies on combining the learnings from the past (imitation) with the creativity and courage to break new ground (deviation). And remember, whether you are imitating or deviating, the ultimate goal is to create products that resonate with your target audience and deliver superior value.

With the right mix of imitation and deviation, brands can not only survive but thrive in today's dynamic marketplace. Harnessing these twin engines of product development, your brand can achieve sustainable growth and establish a strong market presence.

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