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The Roles of Marketing and Industrial Design in Discontinuous New Product Development

Radical or “discontinuous” products based on new technological breakthroughs are playing an ever‐increasing role in the success of firms. However, little research has been conducted that investigates the roles of marketing and industrial design (ID) in the development of these types of products. Further, past research has tended to overlook the role that industrial design, and the impact of the marketing‐industrial design interaction, can have on the development of discontinuous new products. Frequently, the term design is used broadly or is equated with engineering; thus, while the marketing–research and development (R&D) interaction is studied, the marketing–ID as well as the industrial design–R&D relationships are not considered. This article examines the roles of marketing and industrial design in the product development process for discontinuous innovations. Specifically, questions concerning how and the degree to which marketing and industrial design are integrated into the development process are investigated. The investigation employs multiple methods, or triangulation, in order to secure an in‐depth understanding of the roles of these disciplines. In the course of examining these questions, key factors influencing industrial design and marketing involvement are identified and preliminary models are examined.
The research, which was conducted in two phases, employed a mixed‐method, multiple sample design. The methods used included a survey, field observation study, and depth‐interviewing. Data were collected from three different samples: R&D managers, project team members (including personnel from various disciplines—marketing, R&D, industrial design, engineering, etc.), and industrial design managers. The use of the different data sources and sampling of various groups of managers was employed in order to provide a rich context for investigating the research questions of interest. In addition, a preliminary analysis of factors (e.g., degree of product discontinuity, product innovation objectives, process discontinuity, process formality) identified in the first phase was conducted, and these relationships were explored further in the second phase of the research.
Findings across the two phases of this research suggest that the development of discontinuous new products involves a process that is different from more conventional new product development—particularly as it concerns the roles of marketing and industrial design. The high degree of discontinuity inherent in such projects, along with the strong R&D orientation often surrounding them, results in delayed involvement of marketing and ID, as well as altering their roles in the new product development (NPD) process. Factors such as the degree of product discontinuity (DPD), process discontinuity (PCD), and process formality (PF) seemed to exert a differential influence on the involvement of marketing and ID. Although their roles and involvement are altered in discontinuous new product development, this research suggests that marketing and ID roles in this context involve increased challenges with respect to validation of key assumptions and product application directions. Additionally, managers operating in this development context need to explicitly consider the influence of factors such as discontinuity level in undertaking NPD projects with respect to how it affects the execution of industrial design and marketing activities.

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