A product launch is always a highlight for the Product Manager. Marcel Niederberger, Head of Product Management, offers an insight into the varied and challenging tasks involved in a product range change.
With the new year comes a new product range. What does that mean for the Product Management team?
The launch process starts in March. In other words, we define the final look of the new product range almost a year before it actually changes. Usually, around 30 to 40 percent of a product range changes. There is normally one leading product category for which most of the new products and changes are planned.
How is the launch process scheduled over the course of the year?
Once a product range has been defined, the Product Manager (PM) works with the Communication team to draw up the core themes and resulting communication measures. There is a progress meeting in June where the new products are presented to the markets and a launch meeting in December where the Product Manager presents their products to the various markets. Since we launch the new products in Switzerland in February, in Europe in June and in Asia and Australia in the autumn, the individual activities overlap – that’s the challenge.
Are there other differences when it comes to product range changes in foreign markets?
In general, just part of the full Swiss product range is launched in other countries. This is the first year that we’ve launched products exclusively in selected foreign markets. This step proves that we’re able to respond to the cultural needs of our customers in their home countries. In Asia, in particular, products such as gas hobs and powerful range hoods are in demand owing to the different cooking and eating habits there. With this adapted product range, we are now focusing on becoming more international.
What role does the PM play in this process?
The PM is responsible for transferring the product to the market – supporting the launch from start to finish. As part of the core team (comprising Project Management, Development, Service, Quality Management, Design, Production Technology, etc.), they represent the voice of the market and take on the role of a parent who is responsible for their product “baby”. They also go through all the emotions of a pregnancy: looking forward to the event, being nervous, being barely able to wait, but perhaps also a little anxious about the big day, which in our case is the product launch.
With the core team, a variety of people are involved in the process. Who provides the decisive input for the development of an innovation?
There are two possibilities. One is that the market specifies the needs and the PM incorporates them into the planning. A good example of this is cleaning: people don’t enjoy it or have the time to do it so a solution has to be developed that makes cleaning easier. Or the Development team creates a new type of technology such as an oven that can heat up to 800 degrees. The PM then has the task of finding out what benefits the high temperatures could offer customers.
Innovations are closely linked to future trends. To what extent are these incorporated into the product range design?
Future trends are essential. Product Managers have to look 5 or 6 years ahead in their market. In other words, they have to be close to the market. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a good working relationship with the Sales team. As well as direct customer feedback, comprehensive market research also reveals tomorrow’s trends.
Which future trends are the Product Management team currently looking at?
Appliance connectivity. In the future, the focus won’t simply be on products as individual entities, but on appliances as part of a solution. Connectivity enables appliances to be adapted and helps us to react faster to changing needs.
What challenges are presented by the launch of a new product?
One challenge is the manufacturability – in other words, the physical creation of the product. A brand-new product needs a new production line, for example. The challenge is to produce the required sales volume and quality on the day.
And what are the highlights?
When a product is launched, the training courses and trade fair presentations also begin. It’s great fun to finally be able to present your product in the auditorium in Zug in front of 180 people.
In 2019 we can look forward to plenty of highlights. Laundry rooms will feature our stunning Adoras with their new design and ingenious functions such as OptiDos. And we will also be presenting a real world first with DualDry: this appliance enables washing to be dried in the dryer or on a washing line. Our CombiCooler V4000 is a highlight for kitchens with its MonoFridge function. And new products such as our Advanced Line ovens, Coffee-Centers, GuidedCooking and OptiLink also promise real moments of pleasure.
Thank you for the interview!