We have been product designers for more than two decades and have won awards for our designs through out the years– but the ultimate accolade for us would have to be the longevity of our products in the market. Over 80 of the products that we have designed for mass retail have been bought and used over and over again by consumers for the past 20 years and counting. We believe that our success in this regard lies in the genuine joy we find in the process of product design, and most importantly, in how it betters the lives of consumers. Reading positive feedback from online customer reviews, especially when users recommend our products to other consumers, gives us immense satisfaction as designers.
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You’re going to see on our Membership platform a lot of great experts in all aspects of the things of the areas of product launching. It’s an interesting thing where our personalities, our expertise in all those things are coming across in little bits and pieces over the episodes. We’re not doing one of these like, “Let me interview you,” when we did our intro of what Product Launch Hazzards was about and who we were. We had this older video that we did that was this interview style of answering a question, what does it mean to be a good designer and what about accolades and things like that. This sets up who we are, what we care about. I don’t want to be self-promotional about this or anything. This gives you all a little insight into our approach to what good product is, what good product design means, what our intention is for this community. These are the ethical roots of that. These are the guiding principles that we use and I thought we should share it.
It’s a great idea and to be clear certainly about our background and our discipline, we were educated in and have practiced for many years is about product design and has become development. As we talked about in that first episode is that because we’re designers, we’ve experienced everything from the boardroom to the factory floor to selling out on sales trips, to the legal things. While our actual discipline and expertise has always been in design and is probably the most important thing to us, we certainly have experienced enough of all different aspects of bringing a product to market. What we’ve learned and what we’re trying to help everyone with makes perfect sense segueing into Product Launch Hazzards as a membership site to help everybody regardless of what aspect you need help with. That sets our principles up nicely as to what we care about. What we care about is that this sells, that your product sells. If it doesn’t sell, you don’t have a sustainable idea. You don’t have a great invention, you don’t have a business. At the end of the day, everything needs to make that happen but not in sacrificing any ethical principles along the way. That’s how we define it.
Our angle is if you have a better design, your own unique aspects to a product, the product will have a lot more longevity and you won’t be constantly trying to find another horse to run. It’s not a Shotgun Principle. I had to explain that to somebody else. The Shotgun Principle of design is we had this company The Prosper Show when I did my talk there, which is available also as a podcast and as a video on our platform, so you can see my talk there. There was this guy who was talking about how he had 10,000 skews. He was really bragging about that. He thought it was great. It was like a badge of honor he was wearing. I said, “How big is he?” I did some math on it and I came up that the best that I could imagine he was doing if he was still here at the show and because of the seller level, was that he was probably doing about $800 per year on average per skew. I’m sure that’s a mischaracterization. He probably got some skews that are hardly selling at all and a couple of serious home runs of skews that are doing way above the average. On average, that’s terrible.
It’s a horrible look at it. It’s an example of the Shotgun Approach. Many companies practice this. That is not a small business. It is not an inventor, it is not eCommerce sellers that are unique to this, there are big brands that practice the same approach. Luckily, they probably don’t go past the sampling stage because they have the buyer at retail who’s the gatekeeper who goes, “Not that,” but we have had companies who make us design hundreds of items to show at trade shows; hundreds that we know won’t work. We’re pretty confident when we designed these five or six will be the likely ones chosen and 99% of the time we’re right.
I remember many times with salespeople that I would work with at bigger corporations, “We come up with these great designs that absolutely fit the needs and fit the bill for what buyer at retail is looking for.” The reality is we know that it’s right, that we fit the bill. The salespeople are like, “That’s great but we need more. We can’t go in with three or four options. What if they don’t like those? We’ve got to have many more.” They keep throwing quantity at it at the expense of quality because they’re afraid. They use all these unfortunately typically male clichés like, “We’ve got to have more bullets in the gun.” That’s why we call it the Shotgun Approach for a reason. Anyway, we wanted to share with you this clip of how we define accolades. How we define what we’ve been successful on behalf of our clients. That should be the broader definition of success of your product.
“What do you believe is the ultimate accolade to being a designer?
Ultimately what we want is for our products to be bought and used over and over again, that they have some longevity. We have probably 80 products that are still being sold today and some of them are fifteen, twenty years old. They’ve been in the market that long. That to me is the ultimate if my product’s timeless. That’s a good thing.
In America we have a disposable culture and we try not to perpetuate that. In fact, a couple of our products not only have they been on the market for nineteen or twenty years, but the products have survived the client. The product was so valuable and successful that it was sold from one company that needed an exit strategy, because they were going out of business, to another company. At least once if not twice in its twenty-year life. The product is still manufactured and sold today in the same form that it was twenty years ago.
While I want to be timeless and everything, I don’t want to be a Twinkie. Let’s be careful about that. The Twinkie brand obviously survived from company to company, but I hope that it’s because my product’s good and not because it can’t be killed. We develop products pretty much everything except food and fashion. We can forget the Twinkie.
We don’t love design awards. Design awards are filled with a lot of things that look pretty in a magazine but aren’t useful to the consumer. I want people to recommend my products. What I love is nowadays I can read the comments. If I’ve got a product for sale on Staples, I can go read the comments from all of my customers. I love that. That gives me that sense of satisfaction that I did a good job that they love my product and they’re recommending it. A lot of companies don’t look at those comments enough because you can learn a lot from it to improve future products. Fortunately, the feedback that we’re getting on our products is very positive and reinforces that we did a good job. That’s probably the biggest accolade for us.
Have thought about what you would do as a career if you weren’t inventing products?
I don’t like that question.
You always wanted to be a designer. You love being a designer. There’s no question, I would be a writer. It’s my favorite part about when I get to write copy, I get to write blogs and I get to write things about our company. I get energized by the writing portion of it. I’m working on some books so I may actually get to fulfill that part of my dream.
For me, I’m not sure what I would be. It probably would have been an offshoot of being more of an engineer, in computer software or something if I wasn’t a designer. Honestly, at this point I can’t imagine not being a designer. I don’t have dreams of being an actor or somebody famous like that either.
What’s next on your list? What new products would you like to design?
We’ve been lucky and we’ve done a lot of diverse things, consumer electronic accessories and furniture of all kinds in commercial as well as in retail. We’ve gotten to do a lot of interesting things over at the time. When we were doing our Genderblend lecture that we gave in Vegas, we used some other examples that were outside of our design realm. I got excited about grills. I would love to design a grill because it’s the perfect Genderblend product in reverse. More women are grilling. It’s a man’s domain and I’d love to make it female-friendly. There are many things that are wrong with it, like the heat shields right where your boobs are. That’s a scary thing for a lot of women. I’m short and I can’t reach my arm in. There are so many ways that you could functionally make it better and physically it should look better. Why should it be as great as our ovens and our ranges?
There’s a lot of opportunity in that market for a bit of a revolution, if not a significant evolution in the product, something that men would feel manly grilling. If we can make that grill be a much more desirable or certainly interesting product to women and have it function a bit better because they all work the same way, it would be very exciting. The other thing is that I like the idea of adding design to that where it seems such an engineered product and it probably is just factory. It’s all about factory direct. There are certain factories in Asia making grills. They’re all making them the same way. Just like we’ve experienced in other areas, they know how to do only what they know how to do. Until somebody comes along and tells them it can be much better and you can gain more market share by doing it a little differently.
I like that challenge. I definitely want to do a grill in the next couple of years.”
About The Authors
An inventor with 37 patents and an unprecedented 86% success rate for consumer product designs, Tom Hazzard has been rethinking brand innovation to design in success for over 25 years. Tom’s patented innovations provide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes a system to spread their brand, grow valuable consumers, and diversify into higher converting revenue streams without a lot of time, cost or effort. Tom is co-host of the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing podcast as well as host of two new podcasts, Feed Your Brand & Product Launch Hazzards borne out of his core business, Hazz Design, where he has designed and developed over 250 products that generate $2 Billion in revenue for retail and e-commerce clients.