Inside Moen’s prototype-driven product development strategy

7594esrs_lifestyle2_t3 finalOne of the product development strategies at Moen might best be described as “fake it ’till you make it.”

Mike Pickett, who is responsible for strategic innovation at the maker of faucets and fixtures, part of $4.2 billion Fortune Brands, says that it’s impossible to rely on surveys or focus groups when you’re developing a totally new kind of product. “And you can’t show them competitive products, because if it’s truly a strategic innovation you’re developing, there aren’t any,” says Pickett, whose title is VP of Global Strategic Development.

So even though the company’s brand is built upon reliability and durability, Moen sometimes builds semi-working prototypes that consumers can try out. One example: to test a new motion-sensitive faucet that would respond to a user’s hand movements, Moen used a standard faucet with a human operator who could control its operation from behind a one-way mirror. Later, working versions of the product get deployed into consumer’s home for a week or more. “You need to do a longitudinal study to see how it changes their behavior,” Pickett says, “and the way consumers think about the value proposition changes over ten days.” Something that may have seemed mundane at first may turn out to be indispensable — or vice versa. And Pickett says that listening to consumers explain the benefits of a new product helps Moen marketers “learn what resonates, because you can say the words that consumers say after they use the product. Like, ‘It saved me a lot of water.'”

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