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How to Develop New Product Concepts: The Amazon Press Release Approach

Summarising a great Quora post from Ian McAllister, general manager at Amazon, here’s the Amazon way to develop and write compelling new product concepts (itself, built on the Amazon approach described by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels).

Widely admired for its innovation prowess, Amazon’s approach to concept development is simple – rather than begin with the product itself, work backwards by beginning by writing the press release for the innovation first.

This ensures you start with something newsworthy – interesting and exciting that has cut-through potential – and with something (a press release) that’s far faster and cheaper to iterate than iterating a product. Only once you have a compelling press release, then begin ideating and developing a product to fit the press release.

It’s the essentially same solution used by top ad agencies to come-up with – and screen – innovative ad ideas – “Don’t show me the creative, show me the press release” (CPB)

New Product Concept Press Release

  • Heading – Name the product in a way the reader (i.e. your target customers) will understand.
  • Sub-Heading – Describe who the market for the product is and what benefit they get. One sentence only underneath the title.
  • Summary – Give a summary of the product and the benefit. Assume the reader will not read anything else so make this paragraph good.
    • Problem – Describe the problem your product solves.
    • Solution – Describe how your product elegantly solves the problem.
  • Quote from You – A quote from a spokesperson in your company.
  • How to Get Started – Describe how easy it is to get started.
  • Customer Quote – Provide a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how they experienced the benefit.
  • Closing and Call to Action – Wrap it up and give pointers where the reader should go next.

McAllister says that if it’s hard to write a product concept in this format – then this is a sign that your concept is weak/unviable.

Once you have a new product concept press release that almost writes itself, then it’s time to put it in front of some customers.  If it doesn’t score highly on “interesting” and “exciting”, then go back to the drawing board. (McAllister advises keeping it short – writing the concept in warm Oprah/consumer-speak, not dry/technical language).

If the benefits listed don’t sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then perhaps they’re not (and shouldn’t be built). Instead, the product manager should keep iterating on the press release until they’ve come up with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!).

Once you have a compelling press release, then use this as a touchstone and a guiding light for product development – so the development team can continually ask “Are we building what is in the press release?”.  This keeps focus, and stops ‘benefit creep’.

Bottom-line?  Start front-end innovation process by writing press-releases. (And following Amazon’s “Two Pizza Rule” – do this in small groups, with a maximum combined appetite of two pizzas).

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