We're proud to congratulate Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) on five years of Switched On, a column about consumer technology. Check out the first-ever Switched On right here -- we're looking forward to five more years!
Good morning, students. My name is Dr. John Fleming and I welcome you all to MKTG 503: Fictional Technology Product Development. Hopefully, you've all fulfilled the prerequisites to this class, MTG 324: New Product Development and any accredited undergraduate Government class in plausible deniability. As your professor this semester, I'd like to provide a brief overview of the material we will be covering in the emerging field of developing and marketing products that generate incredible amounts of media attention and consumer interest but do not actually exist.

Phase 1: Customer Requirements. Disciplined product development requires acute attention to addressing both stated and unstated customer needs and creating products that fulfill the promise of expectations while maximizing profitability for the organization. In our class, we will learn how to ignore these goals and create figments that have incredible gee-whiz factors that safely ignore considerations such as marketplace pricing and target demographics. Students will generate buzz for a three-paneled OLED ereader that is powered by solar energy while acting as a tanning bed for the burgeoning tween market.
Phase 2: Feature Sets. Unbound by practical business requirements, integration within existing product lines, funding realities or, for that matter, the laws of physics (see case study on Steorn Orbo), fictional products can introduce heretofore little-publicized technology to leapfrog their hopelessly-constrained physical competitors. In this section, we will learn the key principles of ATTAP (All Things To All People) design. Students will develop internet rumor sites regarding a transformative electronic pet elephant that will be evaluated by a focus group consisting of three blind men. Students will not want to miss the lecture on buzzword-compliance for embracing leveraged synergies via wireless purpose-built green social networking.

Phase 3: Industrial Design. As students will discover, one of the great advantages of fictional product development -- apart from dramatic savings of capital expenses -- is the reduction in demands on personnel, although there may be exceptions for public and investor relations staffing. Taking advantage of the new wave of crowdsourcing can produce hundreds of rendered prototypes that effectively defy the means of production and combine design trends from disparate products and even eras. The diversity of these designs will be a valuable source of marketing collateral for media desperate to illustrate articles about fictional devices given the photographic challenges of capturing products constructed of thin air.

Even fictional products can have a real impact on your company's bottom line.

Phase 4: Supply Chain Management. Advance negotiations with component suppliers are critical in assuring that there are ample quantities of vapor, rainbows and breathless hype as some of the key raw materials needed for fictional product nonproduction. As with physical products, effective logistics will require creating detailed contracts with ODM manufacturers to produce designs to exacting specifications. However, unlike as with actual products, these detailed specifications will purposely differ among factories in order to create the widest variety of product possibilities for factory managers who leak product to business media publications and financial analysts.

Phase 5: Evaluating Results and Buiness Metrics. Even fictional products can have a real impact on your company's bottom line. Students will examine case studies of how the failure of rumored products to appear -- despite those products having never been announced -- can create disappointment and negative market reaction while the announcement of products resembling fictional products from competitors can fall flat in advance of sufficient speculation. In addition, fictional products can be used by content companies associated with them as opening up new industry-saving means of distribution. Learn to measure your mindshare against other imaginary products. Students will partner with classmates managing real product lines to ensure that rumored products slow sales of competitors' products while not inhibiting sales of one's own mature, evolutionary products that drive billions of boring dollars.

By the end of the semester, you should all be well-versed in the art of being passively associated with industry-shifting products that your company has no interest in bringing to market. Students may choose to continue study in fictional products next semester by taking my class MKTG 709: Creating and Producing Concept Videos. If you have any questions, fell free to bleeg me on any of the telepathic social networks, but of course I will not be able to respond while I'm driving my helocar.


Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On are his own.