Unless you are in marketing, chances are the likelihood that you’d pick up a book titled Brand It Yourself: The Fast, Focused Way to Marketplace Magic (Portfolio; $21.95 ) is on the far side of never. Yet you may be surprised what you can discover when you venture outside the norm, because this book by Lynn Altman—yes, a woman who runs a firm that helps companies with branding through a company she co-founded in New York, Viverito & Altman—is something that is highly useful to those who are involved in product development, because her methodology of working fast and effectively is nothing if not essential. Altman explains her emphasis on tight time limits on projects: “The time it takes to do anything expands exponentially with the amount of time you allow yourself to do it. And, the more time we’ve invested to reach a certain goal, the more importance it takes on, and the more dependent we become on its success. No one wants to abandon a sinking ship, especially one that took nearly a year to build. What happens, then, is that people start seeing only what they want to see and then use research to justify their actions.” That, I think, goes a long way to explaining why there are products on the market that are less than ideal: people who have spent a considerable amount of time on something—even if that something might cause one to wince—are unlikely to want to tell the boss that there efforts have been for naught...and so they expend efforts to explain just why it is so good, and when it gets to the market, the consumers tell the real story.
Altman also argues that doing what has already been done is not a sure-fire recipe for success, and that it may ultimately backfire: “In new product invention, there’s a tendency to see a marketplace trend and back fit your brand into it. By the time your product has launched, the trend is already over. How many low-carb entries into the grocery store are still around? How many SUVs are there in the world all fighting for the same market share while demand for a Prius is higher than ever? Why not spend the same time and money on innovation and not imitation?” Why not, indeed? Sure, it may seem safe, but if it doesn’t make it in the market, what’s the point? There is a lot to be said for the first-mover advantage. And this requires movement, fast, directed movement, not playing-it-safe endless analysis. By embracing the methodology of working fast, recovery from less-than-ideal products can be rapidly realized.—GSV