How To Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome In Product Development

This exercise is a core part of product development. You’re going to do this anywhere from apparel design, lingerie, electric vehicles, and more – regardless of what type of industry you’re in.

Ahh… yes the creatives curse. Shiny-Object Syndrome. Aptly nicknamed “SOS,” Shiny Object Syndrome is just that – a shout into the wild for serious help. Facing a bout of SOS typically means you’re well on your way to progress in any given task and all of a sudden, as if you’re cursed, something sparkly catches your eye. 

Those sparkly devils can be anything from a new graphic designer you found that may have been a better fit for your project, to a new brand name, a new idea for your first campaign – really anything new. 

Now, don’t get us wrong. We at Louder Creative Group love a creative burst. But the reality is, when it comes to physical product development, SOS isn’t just going to cost you thousands of dollars but will also cost you time and energy. 

Here’s how Shiny Object Syndrome can totally derail a physical product based business from launching on time and on budget: 

  • Wanting to change up your brand identity too late in the process.
  • See a new UX feature for your ECommerce store that you have to have. 
  • Placing an order with a competitor and falling in love with their packaging. 
  • Shopping in a new city, wishing you had a brick and mortar business model. 
  • Dreaming of adding a new shiny product feature, when you are almost done with development. 

New product founders often don’t realize that there are huge iteration windows in product development. You might be waiting 8-12 weeks from one sample to the next, depending on how complicated your tooling is and the type of product you’re manufacturing….That’s a lot of downtime, with tons of opportunities for SOS to steer you wrong. 

So, how do we combat this slippery beast? We use a quick and dirty method called the Is/Is Not Exercise. 

What’s The Is/Is Not Exercise?

The Is/Is Not Exercise will probably be the fastest thing you’ll do in your entire development journey. Still, it’s a very impactful exercise to help you reduce wasted time and money when faced with the Shiny Object Syndrome down the road. 

The Is/Is Not is done in the early stages of your development process. It’s a list of all the things that your product or brand is and is not. Sounds simple enough but trust us, when done properly, you should have a list of 20-30 line items under each of the “Is” and “Is Not” columns. 

How To Do the Is/Is Not Exercise:

  1. ‍Imagine you’re holding your product behind your back.
  2. You have an audience of ideal customers or cash-fluid people in front of you. They have to ask you questions about your product, and your only responses can be affirmative or negative (hence “Is” or “Is Not”).
  3. Example questions are:
  • Is it fragranced?
  • Is it a beauty product?
  • Is it for kids?
  • Is it soft or hard?
  • Is it something I use every day?
  • Is it expensive?
  • Is it rare?

Easy enough, right? However, this list will afford you a level of clarity that’s truly remarkable. 

Here’s a real world example from a client who came to us when they were thousands of dollars deep into development and had nothing to show for it. See if you can spot when the “Is and Is Not” exercise could have saved her! 

Imagine this…. your product is shower caps, and you’re in your 8th week of working with the factory. They have an innovation, allowing them to weave fragrance into the shower cap's lining. Suddenly you’re considering adding this new thing to your product and running an extra sample with the fragrant shower cap. Before you know it, you’re months away from launching, and you’ve already spent thousands of dollars for just the samples.

Did you spot it? Had her “Is Not” list included the words “Not Fragranced,” the temptation of the fragranced product line wouldn't have been an SOS moment. 

This exercise is a core part of product development. You’re going to do this anywhere from apparel design, lingerie, electric vehicles, and more – regardless of what type of industry you’re in. You’ll still get a bit distracted during the development process, but doing the “Is/Is Not” Exercise will reduce the chances that you’ll lose too much time and precious investment dollars chasing the next hot thing.

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