Generating New Product Ideas

This note offers guidance to assist you in your search for "good" new product ideas. It describes useful places to search for ideas and offers guidance in what to look for in an idea and what kinds of ideas to avoid. If you "settle" for a new product idea which does not excite you, the semester will not provide the learning experience that many former Core students have found so valuable. For that reason, it is in your interest to invest time and effort in searching for ideas which you feel you could enjoy as a team. If you make that investment, your overall semester-long experience is likely to be satisfying.

This will be one of the most difficult assignments this semester - but you must come up with a viable product for your team.

Product Ideas Which Faculty Strongly Discourage for 2016—2017
The following product ideas are strongly discouraged and will likely be rejected. We've seen variants of these ideas many times and they typically don't work well in Core. If you submit one of these ideas, make sure it meets a large need and you've spoken to numerous potential consumers (not students) who agree that there is a need. Again, these are based on the faculty’s experience as past teams have struggled or abandoned similar Core project ideas:

Trash can related products
Products with any kind of POCKETS
Duffle bags, backpacks, lunch boxes, suitcases
Spinning storage devices
Devices with lotion (showerheads and soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hairbrushes and gel, etc)
Shoes with removable heels
Types of Baby/Child Carseats or Strollers
Umbrella related products
Perishable products
Bottles, mugs, cups or thermos with multiple compartments
Products that heat or cool beverages
Products that dry/warm/heat jackets or clothing
Stuffed animals with micro chips inside for any purpose
Products with embedded alarms or alarm clocks
Most luggage accessories
Key locating devices

Key Things to Think about in Submitting Ideas:

OVERALL: Think about or find a product you know currently sells well. Determine if current customers are satisfied with all aspects of it. If they are not, is there is an improvement you can suggest which will bring an added benefit which will allow your idea to sell. You should then talk to customers to see if they like your suggestion.

MARKETING – There must be a large enough set of consumers who would want to buy your product if it is priced appropriately.
OM – The product needs to be a physical product and have assembly of at least of few parts, i.e. it can not be software or an iPhone app.

Targted segments – teams are NOT allowed to have the college student segment as their MAIN or primary segment

Where to look for ideas

The first place to look is at the Archive of SM323 Products (available on the Core Project Resources webpage) of past products that have been done. You are not allowed to use product ideas that have been done or are too similar as judged by your faculty.  In looking for new1 product ideas, you should draw on every legitimate source of ideas you can. Good sources include:

retailers  Retailers, who deal in products in your category of interest can be an excellent source of new ideas. They often come into contact with consumers who are looking for things that are not yet offered in the market.  If you approach such retailers in person, in a friendly way, many will spare a few minutes and share ideas about products that could be successful if they were on the market. In fact, a few retailers have urged 323 teams to produce the product they suggested and to send them shipments!

internet blogs/newsgroups   People with special interests in specific areas of activity that involve some form of consumption, like hobbies or other recreational activities, can often point to gaps in offerings in their area of interest.

family and friends  Family members or friends can often point to unhappiness they have with current product offerings and to variations on current products that they would like to see on the market.

yourself   Some of you, having heard about 323, may enter the course with an idea for a new product, either something completely new or something that you have seen in another country, that you think could be adapted in a way that might meet with success in the U.S.

For many of you, the pre-assignment should have yielded at least one strong new product idea. For this assignment, the bottom line is:

Every team is expected to show up at the New Product Review Workshop with several original (pre-approved by your faculty) ideas for products which are not now on the market, but which stand a good chance of finding a set of customers if they were available for purchase.

Faculty will not approve project ideas that primarily target the student market, as these make for poor project experiences.

If an idea is in the SM323 database archive, it cannot be used again.

Copies of all business plans have also been uploaded to So you will need work hard to develop your own original ideas.

With the stakes so high, unethical behavior on this project is not worth the risk.

What TYPES of products to search for
There is a large possible range of types of products that can work for Core. It includes products in categories that already exist and products that define new categories. Some of the categories in which projects have met with success in the past include:

Category Name

Category Description

Sports, Fitness & Travel

Sports and fitness activities, travel items and automobile products

Functional & Decorative Household

Furniture, household decorations and storage items

Kitchen & Food

Products stored, used or consumed in a kitchen

Personal Accessories

Fashion, beauty and healthcare products

Games & Toys

Educational games and toys for people of all ages

Bed & Bath

Products stored or used in a bathroom, bath toys, bedding and laundry items

Kids & Babies

Functional products relating to the care and safety of children


Unique products including pet and holiday items

Office & Personal Productivity

Office tools; includes computer accessories

Recreational Activities

Products relating to recreation, such as picnics, the beach, boating, music, art

You may also get inspiration looking in places that discuss or show new consumer products developed by others, for example:

What TYPES of products to avoid
There are some types of products that do not lend themselves to a good project experience. For that reason, here are some guidelines as to the types of products you should NOT be thinking about.

1.  No industrial products, service products, or software

Your new product ideas must be consumer products, not industrial (B2B) products. Consumer products are goods which are sold to consumers for use by themselves or members of their families. A consumer product may be sold either directly to the consumer by the company that makes it - like a sweater from the Gap, or a hamburger from McDonald's - or indirectly, through channel members (generally retailers) who purchase the product for the purpose of reselling it to the consumer.

Industrial products are goods and services sold to organizations, either for resale, for their own use, or to incorporate into a more comprehensive good or service which they then sell. Examples of industrial products for internal use include machine tools, paper clips, and janitorial services. Industrial products to be incorporated into a more comprehensive product include the wool that goes into a sweater from the Gap and the ground beef that goes into a McDonald's hamburger. The primary reason for avoiding industrial products is not that the industrial arena does not offer good opportunities for the introduction of innovative new products. However, some of the research we ask you to undertake for this project, such as focus groups and surveys, would require too much time and effort to perform in industrial contexts. For that reason, you are limited to consumer products.

Again, the product must be a physical product and have assembly of at least of few parts, i.e. it can not be things such as a service, software, e.g., iPhone app

2.  No low-priced knock-offs

There are opportunities in many product categories for lower-priced copies of existing products. However, such copies make for poor 323 projects and for that reason, we do not allow them. As a rule, we will not allow products whose appeal is based mostly on a price which is lower than comparable alternatives.

3.  No convenience combos - except where you can show it adds value that a consumer is willing to pay for

In the past, faculty have occasionally allowed product concepts that consisted of combining two existing products in a single container. The only new benefit these new combinations offered was the convenience of one container versus two. Most of the time, such concepts have little staying power and have led to poor project experiences.  For that reason, convenience combos are generally not allowed unless you show how the product adds value that a consumer will pay for.


 4.  No "Star Trek" technology

We usually discourage products that are heavily technological. If you do choose to work on a product that lies on the tech frontier, we will expect you to provide credible evidence that what you propose is technologically feasible now - rather than in a few years from now. Usually such evidence can be provided in published articles on the subject or the written opinion of a recognized expert in the field.


 5. No products that depend on non-existent infrastructures

The classic example here is a money card for parking meters. This idea surfaces almost every semester. For such a card to sell, however, towns would have to first replace their coin meters with ones that could read a money card. For this project, this is not a mere technicality. A viable business plan for a product like this would have to include a separate business plan for the finders of the new technological infrastructure. That requirement places nearly all product ideas of this type out of bounds for this project. One semester is simply not long enough to complete a project of that magnitude.

Within a 323 section, your faculty:

  • Will NOT allow teams to have "competing " products that are targeted at the same target consumers.  The team who developed the (approved) idea first will be the one that can use this idea for their project.
  • Reserve the right to VETO ideas for products to which there might be either ethical or moral objections. These would include products such as tobacco or products whose primary purpose, like radar detectors, is to help people break the law. We also reserve the right to veto any other product which, in our judgment, we believe will not be conducive to a productive project experience.
  • MUST pre-approve your new product ideas so they can be presented.  See link: "Pre Clearance Procedures for New Product Ideas" on SM323 Master Calendar

Notes: 1.  A new product is one which is not presently being offered for sale and is not known to be in development by any organization for future sales.  New services are not appropriate for this project, however meritorious they may be. Projects are restricted to new products only as they share production, inventory, and other issues with which the faculty want you to deal.

Revised JH and Core Design Team  8/16.