Product Development: A Marketing Function?
I read this hbr article and, in short, it solidified my thinking that product development, especially at La Colombe, should be housed in a department that is separate from marketing (or, more generally, The Brand). It’s worth noting: my sense is that we are currently structured in that way (even though both functions start & end with TC).
First, let me try to put this in the context of the development of the Draft Latte. It was developed with a specific use case (and pain point) in mind: cafe quality on the go. Its potential consumer occupies a wide swath of the population. It is perfect because it is a direct hit on both targets.
To Todd’s credit, he was able to develop this product in spite of the (very powerful) brand he had already built. Along the way, he broke free of the pre-existing constructs that defined La Colombe. We were a roaster that was defined by exclusivity and luxury. We were not for the masses; only those with a refined palette could appreciate our elegance. He said fuck that, this is a great product even if it doesn’t fit our brand.
To be sure, this was a painful process. And it was painful because of people’s brand-first mentality. The product ins’t in keeping with our brand, they said. We should charge more, they said. We could never sell to Target, they said. I actually can’t underestimate the resistance Todd encountered, every step of the way. This product would have never come from the brand world of Old La Colombe.
The Draft Latte succeeded because of Todd’s sheer force of will, and that is obviously not sustainable or healthy. We need to build a scalable product development function that can deploy successful products without friction. Our new products, whether they be juice, creamers, whippets, what have you, should be targeted at specific consumer use cases or pain points. If we limit ourselves to serving only our current customers, we will limit the possibilities. If we develop products from within the Brand, we won’t think of the customers that we don’t serve.