Product Is Everything
"We didn’t start the company. We were just making a bag." - Jack Spade when asked about what it was like to start Kate Spade with his girlfriend at the time, via Inc magazine.
Kate Spade classic nlyon bag
I just had a conversation with my good friend Leslie today about what we learned in our retail industry careers (Cole Haan and Ralph Lauren, respectively). For me, respecting the product comes at the top. When I worked in retail, the product was the purview of the design and merchandising teams, and from my role in strategy, finance, and marketing, I used to think that product was easy to get right - the rest was what was difficult. Opening stores, analyzing sales metrics and margins, creating advertising campaigns - these were the things I thought were important in running a business. However, I now completely realize my conceit - opening stores, analyzing margins, that stuff is easy. Getting the product right and, in tandem, presenting it to the world in a compelling way are the things that make a brand and business successful. There is a reason there is only one J. Crew - the merchandise is everything.
In my current planning role at an advertising agency, my products are my ideas, strategies, and internal output (briefs/decks). Because my product is so much harder to measure, but I sometimes think back to what made a Kate Spade handbag or a Ralph Lauren polo so successful. Does my idea meet a strategic or functional need, is it either an innovative new idea or a better iteration of what’s currently existing in the market, and am I selling it to stakeholders in a way that’s the most compelling that it can be? If not, I can’t expect my product to beat every other product that’s out there.
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