white generic products on a shelf

Moving Beyond White Labeling? What to Expect From Custom Product Development

White labeling can be a great strategy. But how do you know when it’s time to move to bespoke product development? Start by assessing your business needs.

Jon Gimondo
Jon Gimondo

August 23 rd 2023 | 7 min read

White labeling is a common (and perfectly valid) approach to product development. It involves sourcing a ready-made item from a manufacturer and adding your particular brand elements to make the product your own.

Although M3 doesn’t do white labeling work, we recognize that it can be an effective way to build your brand and gain awareness with your audience. It’s affordable and fast, making it an attractive option if your budget is tight and you need to accelerate your time to market.

But there may come a time when white labeling simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Perhaps you have an innovative idea that will set you apart from your competition. Maybe you want to evolve your product’s design to address user feedback, but your manufacturer is not able to accommodate requests to modify it. Or perhaps you simply need to control your product’s manufacturing and supply chain processes more closely.

Whatever the impetus may be to move beyond your white labeling strategy, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into when you decide to invest in a bespoke solution. Here’s what to expect — and what you stand to gain — from custom product development in general and an engagement with M3 in particular.

The Benefits (and Costs) of Custom Product Development

New product development is almost always more expensive than white labeling. It can also take longer to get your product to market, especially if you’ve never been through the process before. So if you make the decision to move away from white labeling, you’ll need to allocate sufficient time and resources to make your product a reality.

Hiring a design firm can be the most cost-effective and efficient option. This removes the need to build an in-house design and engineering team from the ground up. It also puts your product in the hands of people with the right expertise to bring your vision to life.

Furthermore, custom product development offers additional opportunities to unlock your organization’s competitive advantage and increase your ROI. After all, with white labeling, you’re essentially releasing the same product as many of your competitors. By contrast, investing in your own product line is a great way to establish a unique value proposition and increase your market share.

Control Your Product’s Future

One of the key advantages of custom product development is that you retain control over every part of the end-to-end development process, including your product’s:

  1.  Design. With white-labeled products, the design is determined by the third-party manufacturer. Whereas custom development gives you the opportunity to engage in an in-depth, collaborative concept and design process that’s completely geared toward finding solutions to your business problems and meeting your users’ needs. This is particularly beneficial when your users have requested new features or you’ve identified opportunities to serve them better that illuminate opportunities to serve them better.
  2.  Manufacturing and quality. When white labeling, your production choices are limited to what the third-party manufacturer offers. But when you choose custom product development, you can explore different materials and manufacturing methods that will enable you to best accomplish your goals. For example, brands with a clean-and-green identity could launch a product using sustainable, eco-friendly materials to reinforce a consistent and authentic message.
  3.  Supply chain. Custom product development also gives you more freedom when sourcing your product’s parts and suppliers. If one supplier stops offering a certain part or can’t access a needed material (perhaps due to international conflicts or embargos), you can easily look elsewhere for the elements you need. Likewise, if you want to be a “Made in the USA” company, custom product development lets you control where your product’s various components are coming from.

When you’re not in control of your product’s development, your manufacturer could make out-of-the-blue changes that derail your business strategy and leave you scrambling for a new solution. You may also find yourself continuously making concessions and/or compromising on quality. New product development eliminates these drawbacks from the equation.

Fill a Market Gap

White labeling can help your brand secure your place in an existing market, but it can’t help you corner a new one. So if you identify areas of unmet need and want to chart an entirely new course of action, custom product development is your only option.

Expand Your Company’s IP

With your very first custom-built product, you can start patenting unique ideas and building your company’s IP library. This is advantageous if you want to develop an ambitious, visionary product development roadmap that positions your company for long-term success.

You’ve Decided to Move on From White Labeling: Now What?

Again, white labeling can be a perfectly suitable strategy. But if you’re ready to create custom products for any of the reasons listed above, it’s time to consult the experts.

A product development firm like M3 will have the years of experience in developing a product from start to finish that your white label manufacturer previously supplied. Since we’ve been through the product development process countless times, we can help make the transition from white labeling to fully custom development as seamless as possible. Here’s how we can help bridge the gap:

Research Expertise

Understanding the voice of the customer is essential to custom product development, ensuring that each feature and design choice aligns with your customers’ expectations. Our expertise in this area allows us to create a strong foundation for your product, guaranteeing higher customer satisfaction and long-term success.

If your company has been relying on ready-made products, you may be in need of the in-depth research and understanding of customers’ specific needs and preferences needed to develop a great product. Our team excels in comprehensive product research and stakeholder-centered design, diving deep into your customer’s behaviors, desires, and pain points. By cross-referencing information from surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc. with market and technology research, we can unearth those valuable insights that will pave the way for products that truly resonate with your users.

Manufacturing Process Expertise

Transitioning from white labeling to fully custom product development can involve a significant shift in manufacturing processes. Since white labeling typically involves sourcing products from third-party manufacturers, if you have relied on this strategy you may feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to make complex manufacturing decisions.

Our team of experts has a deep understanding of various manufacturing techniques, materials, and production processes. We can lead you through the selection of the most suitable manufacturing approach, optimizing costs, production timelines, and quality control measures to ensure your custom products are brought to life efficiently and properly.

Innovation Expertise

White labeling, by nature, limits the scope for innovation. If you’ve previously been confined to adapting existing products available in the market, you may not have had much practice in thinking outside of the box and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible as it relates to your product’s design.

At M3 Design, innovation is at the heart of everything we do. Our team is comprised of creative minds from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about ideating, prototyping, and bringing groundbreaking concepts to life. We’ve built a culture of experimentation and creative thinking, ensuring that each product we develop is distinctive, inspiring, and capable of leaving a lasting impact on your target market.

Is it Time to Kiss White Labeling Goodbye?

White labeling serves many companies well. And only you can decide whether or not to continue with your current strategy or move into a whole new realm.

But know this. Your product — and your brand — exist within the vacuum of your particular industry. If you are a consumer electronics brand, you may have tunnel vision of your solution space that a cookware brand wouldn’t, and vice versa. That tunnel vision can be further exacerbated by the inherent limitations of white-label manufacturing. That’s where we come in.

At M3, we have visibility across industries, technologies, and trends — and that means we’re uniquely qualified to help you envision what’s possible. Our work speaks for itself. So when you’re ready to get started, let’s talk.

Jon Gimondo
About the Author

Jon Gimondo – Engineering