by Bill Cherry
Everyone at one time or another has had a good idea or an idea that’s not so good. You have had that flash of brilliance when the light bulb in your head went on and you know this is the big one. Of course after a day or so the idea fades and soon forgotten.
What is a good idea? Sometimes we think we know but usually we don’t. A good idea will either satisfy a need, create a new product, or a new technology. Does your new idea do any of these?
Often really good ideas are very simple. Take the Hostess Twinkie; simple is the word. During the great depression in the 1930’s a manager at Continental Bakery wanted to create an inexpensive snack that they could sell year around. They came up with a simple sponge cake with cream filling. Actually the original Twinkies had banana flavored filling. What could be simpler than a sponge cake with cream filling?
Pop Rocks candy was created while food scientists were trying to develop a tablet that created a flavored carbonated drink when dropped in. One of the scientists popped one into his mouth and “Pow” Pop Rocks was born. An example of accidentally discovering something while looking for something else, called serendipity.
Some ideas are bad. Take New Coke for example; after millions of dollars and over a year of research the Coca Cola Company created a product that was one of the greatest product failures in marketing history.
Here are two product examples that I would have sworn would be failures, the Hoola Hoop and Pet Rock. But history proved me wrong. Both huge successes. The fact is that no one really knows if a product will be a winner. Not even Donald Trump.
Here is an easy way to create a new product. Find a product used for one use and apply product in another industry. For example, I used a ball from a game named racquetball as a toy for my dog to fetch. The racquetball could be used for both the sport and the dog toy.
What do you do if you do have a great idea? First write a detailed description of the product. Second draw a simple illustration of the product. Make copies of them and mail them to yourself. When the envelop arrives put it in a file and don’t open it. The postmark date is proof when you created the idea.
If you are going to patent your product idea, there are a few things to do first. Have a patent search done on your idea to see if any other products beat you to it. It takes around three weeks and cost around $300. Next file a provisional patent. You can file it yourself and it doesn’t cost much. The provisional patent is a temporary patent that gives you the right to use the Patent Pending trade mark. The provisional patent will only last 12 month. Next is to file the patent. Use a patent attorney to do that. It will cost $5,000 to $8,000.
Next you will need to create a prototype of your product idea. Find other products that are similar and made of similar materials and then find out what company made them. Find a company that will agree to make prototypes, for a price of course. You may have to talk to several companies before you find one that will agree to make the prototype. They will also want to product your product when it is ready to roll out. Get your cash ready.
Get with an accountant and have him or her help with determining your production costs. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars developing a product only to learn that there is very little profit in it. These are some of the basics of creating a new product. Of course there is much more to it but go for it. If you don’t you will regret it.