Continuing on the theme of the relationship between product development and marketing in this issue, we asked Keith Smith our resident business development Rockstar whether he thought marketing should be involved when products are being developed.

I’m frankly amazed that the question of whether marketing people should be involved in product development even manages to find airtime these days.

We live in such a marketing-oriented world that it’s practically impossible not to consider marketing when developing a new product.

Marketing determines how a product presents itself, the name, all the ancillary IP, what target market it addresses and its life expectancy.

In fact, let me turn the question around and ask “What type of product can you create these days without considering the marketing?”

Here’s a real-world example I recently encountered: A potential client came into my office with a mobile phone that bolted on to an Oculus headset and allowed the user to magnify the world in real-time -which solved a problem for the extremely low-vision disabled. It was stunningly clever and addressed a genuine need, but it was bulky, expensive and was vulnerable to being copied and improved by a bigger tech business in about two minutes flat.

In short it was a perfect invention that came into existence without any consideration for the marketing.

When the marketing for a product becomes an afterthought, you end up trying to make a narrative retroactively fit the purpose of a product.

Great products are products that target markets ‘get’ instantly. They understand the purpose of a product and if they can use it and afford it, they will buy it.

Trying to shoe-horn a product into an invented need is insane.

Around the turn of the century, I was working for a that created a search engine at a time when the best search engines were Lycos and AOL.

The technology was stunning but it was underfunded and couldn’t deploy fast enough to match the ever-increasing growth of the internet. So the powers that be decide to change horses mid-stream and try to vertically integrate the product, pitching it as a neat B2B white label search engine for corporations.

The trouble was it was a derivative of the fantastically funded Autonomy which was already doing a great job of wooing corporations, and on the other side of the coin, the other bases were being covered by the fast-growing Google.

So our product fell between two stools and the dumbasses at the top tried to use marketing to save a brilliant product that didn’t have a market. Twelve million pounds later the company went bust and Google didn’t. Lesson learned.

In my humble opinion, a product developed without any marketing consideration is a money-pit. If you’re a company looking for a huge tax write off, then go and launch a couple of inventions without even thinking about the target market, the packaging, the user experience, digital sales and or distribution. Fortunately, HMRC doesn’t penalize companies for half-baked business ideas.

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