Pretotyping: Fail more and quicker to reach success sooner

Sometimes you hear/read a new word and the word´s own personality stands out from the very beginning. It´s even better when the word is actually a useful one to learn. This is the case of Pretotyping.

This post is to introduce the concept and the utility of Pretotyping. I will merely be summarising from the original sources that are out there on Pretotyping which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to dig deeper: The Pretotyping Manifesto video from this past January 2012 at Stanford, the original Pretotyping web page, and the free online book

A bit of background on Pretotyping: The idea of Pretotyping, whilst largely common sense is not a new concept. It’s basically an unconventional but effective form of market research. But whilst the core nature of it is not groundbreaking, the structure and articulation of the ideas and practices that surround the Pretotyping are very poignant and feel very much new. The naming and postulation of Pretotyping has been created and championed by Alberto Savoia who was Google’s Engineering Director and an expert on Innovation.

A bit of background on Mr Savoia and the seed of the Pretotyping concept: Alberto Savoia is a serial entrepreneur, who has had his fair share of sucesses and failures. After a really promising start into entrepreneurship, his second big profile project, with big leagues VC funding, flopped. This marked a wake up call for Savoia, who while at Google, decided to focus on this very important question we should all ask ourselves every once in a while: WTF?

WTF? =why the failure?

Mr Savoia started by outlining a very simple principle.

Law of failure=most ideas fail (even if very well implemented)

If most ideas fail (just take a look at all the apps that are sitting unused in the Apple store…), and most ideas take a healthy amount of time and money to fully activate, it makes sense when Alberto urges us to, when developing a new product or service, “make sure you are building the right IT before you build IT right”. This is Mr Savoia’s mantra for developing anything succesfully (a book, a company, a product…)

The trick, as it´s quite likely that most of our ideas will fail at implementation, is not to outrun failure, but to use it to your advantage.

What is the Pretotyping premise? Well, this takes into account speed of failure. The quicker your idea fails (as most will fail) the quicker you can try more ideas until one eventually becomes a success. The worst ideas are those that we allow to fail very slowly, as they consume our time, our money and our motivations in the long run.

Definition of Pretotyping: Validating the market appeal and actual usage of a potential new product or service by simulating its core experience whilst minimizing time and money spent.

The main question you ask when pretotyping: does it make sense to build it? would people use it?

In essence, Pretotyping is closer to innovative market research techniques that to prototyping.

If you adopt Pretotyping, the amount of ideas you will test will increase substantially, with them your amount of quick failures will also increase (you will fail more and quicker), but in return for your speedy failure you will eventually also come up with more successes. The goal of Pretotyping is to minimize slow, painful failures and increase quick ones, to reach success sooner.

The Pretotyping Manifesto

  • Innovators beat ideas
  • Data beats opinions
  • Doing beats talking
  • Simple beats complex
  • Now beats later
  • Commitment beats committees
  • Pretotypes beats Productypes

So what is the main advantage of  Pretotyping? Cost-efficient and speedy failure so as to quickly and cheaply discern those products or services that people won´t try, so you can go ahead and continue trying to find those that will.

Types of Pretotypes:

Mechanical Turks: Any dummy development that has not really been fully fledged out would fall into this category. A recent example mentioned by Alberto Savoia would be an IBM speech-to-text product, that was originally intented to spare business executives who were not PC-savvy from typing. The validation was executed through a Mechanical Turk as in reality the software wasn’t developed at all. Executives who tested out the Pretotype were made to believe it was a finished product when in reality there was a professional typist that did the typing into the Pretotype computer from another room.

One of the earliest examples of Pretotyping!

Pinocchio pretotype: Here you create a dummy product and assess it´s worthiness by filling in the blacks with your imagination (wooden block with painted buttons carried around with you would serve to see if you would use a palm device throughout the day)

Palm product and its Pinocchio Pretotype

Fake door: This measures interest in a service or product. You basically put an ad that explains the product and see  if people clicked on it. Very low investment (Adwords) and in return you get real consumer interest data!

Impersonator pretotypes: you take another product and wrap your product label around (to see if people would buy it, try it, etc)

Huge and very successful companies pretotyped in their origins. Facebook tried out pretotyping. They started with a small group of university students to see if the idea really worked. And the rest is history.

Pretotyping has also been vastly used in advertising. When developing an ad idea, you don’t produce and shoot straightaway. You recreate a mock up version of the advert to see if it is differentiating and relevant enough to really produce.

Any examples out there that you can think of that involve Pretotyping?

Take care amigos,


(post finished to the tune of Summerlines , by Au Revoir Simone)




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Mobile Search: How can intent or search plus the location be used for advertisers?

Hi all, this post will talk about how brands can best link user necessity with geographical targeting in the mobile world. Thrilling stuff!

From a user intent point of view, Mobile Advertising in general works better for low-consideration products that are not perceived as expensive. It is therefore more effective for immediate intent actions similar to ones that have already been mentioned (Forrester report states that Mobile Searchers typically act within an hour of searching).

To dig deeper into how advertisers can use Mobile Search alongside location functions we will focus on Mobile Search options offered by AdWords from Google, as they dominate the mobile search market (98% as demonstrated in the below chart from TechCrunch)

Google is undisputed leader in the search market, both mobile and desktop

These are the main options that can be used in AdWords in conjunction to search for location-based purposes:


Based on what the user types in the search, AdWords will show a clickable banner with the option to show all locations for a particular business in Google Maps for Mobile.

This tool offers the possibility to use the logo of the business as the icon on the map which can aid brand recall. If the user clicks on the location, he or she is lead to a page with more relevant details such as address, numbers, directions, call function, etc.


With these functionalities users can speak directly to the to the business through the ad, find out directions or distance to the nearest store. These functionalities can bridge the gap between interactive and offline channels through.


The ad can also be linked to iTunes store or Android Market to enable the user to download a specific app that can aid in customer experience, retention and loyalty.


The new ‘Offers’ ad extension, will allow a voucher code to be attached to ads for customers to redeem in their local store.


This next generation search will be influenced by the two leading trends of the last few years: social and mobile. This has been promoted by the Location Based Services (LBS) that we briefly mentioned earlier

Social location-based services are virtual “check-in” services that allow people to check into physical locations, allow your contacts from social networks to know where you are. With this the user can earn rewards for his continued visits, badges, and also physical products.

So why should an advertiser/business owner care about Social LBS’s

Business owners can secure partnerships with theses location-based services to increase brand awareness, conversions (sales) and loyalty (return sales).

Through the use of LBS, advertisers can:

  • Reach out to customers near the point of sale (and invite them in with an attractive offer)
  • Acquire new customers via friend recommendations.
  • Gather valuable data for further advertising in the future.

The most successful LBS are Foursquare and Facebook places (although depending on the region others such as Dowalla, Loopt and Scvngr are also popular)

That’s all for now.

Take care amigos,


(post finished to the tune of  “Crash into me” by Dave Matthews Band)

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