Product Shape as a Design Innovation Strategy

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J PROD INNOVMANAG 1987:4:274-283

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Product Shape as a Design Innovation Strategy
Marvin Berkowitz

Product design has become an effective competitive tool in the hands of a number of companies. Marvin Berkowitz discusses the impact of design variations on a proven winner in the marketplace. This article discusses the use of product shape as an element of innovation strategy in food processing. Can this particular design dimension be used to achieve differentiation from competitive products? The article explores how one company is attempting to capitalize on consumer trends for fitness and nutrition by designing its products with natural looking shapes. The research more generally probes how easy to spot design cues, like shape, are used by consumers to infer more important, but less readily accessible attributes like taste, softness, comfort and speed. Good design not only adds sales appeal, but encourages trading up, provides a basis for market segmentation, and for building a larger line from the same engineering investment.

Address correspondence to Marvin Berkowitz, Associate Professor of the School of Business, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT 06430. © 1987 Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc. 52 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, NY 10017

Good industrial design is frequently good business [28]. James [24], views design as a defense strategy to protect consumer franchise. He points out that Braun, a West German consumer electronics producer, and Zenith, a Swiss watch manufacturer, have captured valuable market segments by attracting customers through their innovative designs: these designs are of such recognized high standards that the products are on permanent display at New York's Museum of Modern Art. In aggressive price markets, design variants of size, color, shape, packaging, features and accessories are a basic means for creation of the differential advantage which sells new products and enables firms to cope with demographic, social, cultural and economic change [25,38]. The 1985 roll-out of the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, t w o sleek new cars on which the Ford Motor Co. is pinning their hopes for a competitive rival against General Motors, the Japanese and Germans, indicates the potential of the design dimension [29]. Even so, design is frequently portrayed organizationally as caught in the middle between sales people who want to freeze the product, marketing people who want an ever expanding selection to compete, and technologists who are constantly pressing for performance improvements [4,11]. This article focuses on how one company is pursuing a product differentiation strategy for a processed food product through a design innovation involving product shape. Examples of familiar packaged food items that fit a differentiation 0737-6782/87/$3.50

PRODUCT SHAPE

J PROD INNOV MANAG 1987;4:274-283

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Table I. Design Emphasis During Different Phases of the Product Life Cycle Phase Product introduction Emphasis F o c u s is o n f u n d a m e n t a l t e c h n i c a l and functional design: Creative l e a p s ; d r a m a t i c c h a n g e s in p e r formance; reliability and ruggedness; compactness; portability; user costs; user friendliness; c o n v e n i e n c e ; e n j o y m e n t in u s e ;

Marvin Berkowitz is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Management in the School of Business at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and has worked as a manager and researcher in both the private and non-profit sectors, writing extensively. With regard to the work reported on in this article, he was involved in 1984 in the original research on the product category, conducted similar research exploring market opportunities in England, and designed the product test specifically described here.

strategy and involve minor shape modifications a b o u n d - - a small cube or ball of chocolate instead of an elongated...
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