by: Geoff Ficke

The Importance of Crude Prototypes in Launching And Marketing New Consumer Products

The most spectacular example of stunning product design extant in the world today must surely be on display in Marinello, Italy at the Ferrari Auto works. Ferrari is the apex of beauty; exclusivity, performance and technology, all bundled into one visually stunning work of mobile art. The famous Prancing Horse icon, seen racing down a winding road, attached to a Ferrari is one of the most beautifully alluring visions in the world.

The legendary Ferrari, so rarely seen on the road or in showrooms is the highest form of world famous Italian design. However, like any other car, the Ferrari is conceived only after small scale models and prototypes are made. Typically the first prototypes are crafted from clay. Then they are critiqued, tweaked and re-worked. Only after much prototype development work is conducted is the car ready to go to engineering for planning and detailed design and construction.

The Ferrari is never produced from a single prototype design. The styling group is always looking to improve and enhance the design. Even when the silhouette of the shape appears perfect, the designers continue to strive for perfection. This drive to make a “Ferrari” is what makes the car so desirable.

Consumer Products that are considered “Hard Goods” are always evolved from prototypes. Established Companies with sophisticated Engineering and Marketing Departments intentionally seek “crudeness” in early design. This relatively undefined “alpha” model is purposely created to spark creative input. Product Design Engineers have learned that a near perfect or too finished prototype results in too much agreement and too little critical thought. It is criticism that generates improvement.

Toy Companies always utilize prototypes to pre-test responses from children before entering production. Jewelry manufacturers use wax and then alloy prototypes to insure integrity and detail of design. Sporting Goods, Small Electrics, Sporting Goods, Packaging Components and Pet Products are made in the same way.

Another reason to produce prototypes through a “crudeness” cycle is to insure proof of product performance. A Consumer Product that must be built from tooling in the manufacturing process requires a significant investment. The cost of a crude prototype can be a source of great savings by confirming the Features and Benefits of the product before spending any monies on the construction of molds.
As the prototype is improved and finished it will take on the look of the go-to-market product that the Sales, Marketing and Branding departments will launch.

For Entrepreneurs the prototype process is crucial. My Product Development and Marketing Consulting firm works extensively with inventors and small businesses. The proper investment in obtaining a Production Quality Prototype is often an enterprise’ Achilles Heel. This is a reality that we must constantly restate.

A few points that will reinforce the importance of securing Production Quality Prototypes:

• Decision Makers expect to see a working model in shelf-ready shape
• Garage, self-produced models demonstrate a lack of professionalism
• 3D CAD art used to create Prototypes is essential in learning Cost of Goods
• Manufacturing process requires a Release Packet based on the Prototype
• Finished Prototypes are the model for Manufacturing Execution
• We Pre-sell from Production Quality prototypes
• Prototypes determine unit carton packaging options
• Prototypes can be photo-shopped for producing Sales Collateral
• The Web-Site visuals can be created from Prototype images
• Do not expect the 1st prototype to be perfect, “crude” is a good 1st step
Multi-national Companies such as Toyota, Swatch or Unilever have extensive R&D and New Product Development budgets. Entrepreneurs typically do not. Nevertheless, the prototype development process will be the difference in whether most projects reach market. Do not skirt this step. There are no rewards for taking shortcuts.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.