Thursday 13 June, 2013

Making Your Products Better – What Is Reformulation?

When something isn’t working and your market isn’t buying, it’s tempting to look at your marketing and try to discover the problem there. Maybe if you can tighten up your sales copy or shift the emphasis of your call to action, you can hit the emotional hot button that will get them buying. But what marketers often don’t realize is that it’s the product itself that’s failing to meet the market’s needs.

This is where reformulation comes into play. Reformulation means making key changes to your products to adapt to market conditions, rather than just taking another tack with your marketing. This is not going completely back to the drawing board and starting over but simply making some changes.

The problem is that peoples’ tastes change. A product that was a hot seller last year may have fallen out of favor this year. No amount of tricky marketing is going to convince people to buy a product that’s simply not relevant or doesn’t meet their modern needs. Reformulation means going back and listening to your market, and then making the changes they demand.

Now Made with Less Sugar

The best example of reformulation can be seen in the food industry, which is heavily swayed by consumer opinion and scientific findings. In the 1970s, it was believed that people didn’t want such fatty foods, but that sugar was harmless. Advertising from the 70s describes its products as healthy and sometimes even touts the high sugar level.

When scientific findings revealed that sugar plays a key part in making people obese, it led to the low-sugar boom of the following decades. Companies’ product development departments discovered ways to reduce sugar and create new products that met the market’s needs.

Offering More to Your Market

Reformulation can also include brand extensions. This is where you offer new products or add-ons that better meet your market’s needs, rather than making changes to existing products. If you’re selling exercise machines, for example, you may expand into selling vitamin supplements or running shoes. Your brand extensions are different products but they still follow your brand’s unique selling proposition of offering what your customers need to stay healthy and fit.

The Downsides of Reformulation

There are downsides to reformulation, however. Whenever big companies make changes to their products, they always perform detailed risk assessments. They look at how this change will affect the product and other products. To take the example of the food industry above, reducing the salt and sugar in a food product means that it doesn’t preserve as well. This is an adverse consequence of the product change.

If you’re considering reformulating a product, take time to consider all of the effects it will have on the product or other products you offer. Even if you’re a small company, you need to perform a risk assessment or else there could be consequences.

Reformulation is costlier than just changing your marketing, but it can bring with it great rewards. It allows you to stay current and weather any change of taste your market has.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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