“Have you considered making that limited edition a permanent SKU in the market?”

This is a question that I have heard over and over again and the typical answer (in my head) has always been… “It’s a limited edition. That should be pretty obvious.”

But when a few top execs ask that question often, you actually begin to wonder why and question the possibility.

I have asked myself a lot lately, “Can limited editions be great innovations?”

Most of the organizations that I have worked for have introduced limited edition products into the market. Some were successful and others failed terribly. For those that were a success, there was always the temptation to keep them longer and scale them up on the one hand. On the other hand, everyone was pretty happy to discontinue those that failed.

Limited editions are new products usually available for a defined period of time and come with exclusivity. Most companies use them strategically to either build brands or refresh an ageing brand. Limited editions create excitement among consumers because only a few products are availed for sale into the market and once sold out no more is produced. This makes it exclusive to a few people.

Innovation introduces new products into the market based on a solid consumer and commercial insight. This means that both the consumer and the business gain value with its introduction. As a result, most innovations consider scalability which is typically the size of prize to the business. The bigger the prize, the more attractive the idea. Unlike innovations, limited editions lack scale as they are not volume drivers. Focus is on the experience and exclusivity making the volumes very low which impacts on the overall cost of the product. On this basis limited editions may not be great innovations

However, if a limited edition is used for test marketing, it can turn out to be a great innovation. Test marketing is a critical step during the innovation process as it validates the idea before the business commits its resources to fully commercialize. Given that test markets are controlled in scope and timing for proper measuring of results, it’s ‘limited’ in a way. So if you introduce a limited edition with the key objective of testing the market you can review the results and go into full commercialization. The only downside to this strategy would be the risk of consumers feeling cheated if the product is fully commercialized as it will no longer be exclusive

Have you struggled with the idea of making a limited edition a permanent product in market? Share your thoughts and experiences.