Idea Validation: Product


Serve a competing product to your customers as if it was your own

Illustration of Impersonator
Run a Impersonator play

Also called: Imposter Judo, Boomerang, Re-Label, Repackage

Difficulty: Intermediate

Evidence strength

Relevant metrics: Acquisition, Activation, Customer feedback, Cost

Validates: Feasibility, Viability, Desirability

How: If competing products already exist, repackage them as your own as a simple way to gather quick feedback or ask customers to sign up and give feedback on a competitor's website as if it was your own.

Why: Why commit to expensive partnerships or spend time building a prototype when plenty already exist to test. Investigate whether repackaging a competing service in a new form will yield significant results.

This experiment is part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

Get your deck!

Before the experiment

The first thing to do when planning any kind of test or experiment, is to figure out what you want to test. To make critical assumptions explicit, fill out an experiment sheet as you prepare your test. We created a sample sheet for you to get started. Download the Experiment Sheet.

Use what is already there

The Impersonator experiment suggests that if a similar idea to yours already exists, you should try to repackage that as your own as a simple way to gather quick feedback. This is especially effective when testing physical products or showing early-stage static mockups.

Skinning and posing an existing product as a new offer comes with the advantage that the existing product has known performance characteristics. Customers can have faith to put the product in the hands of test participants.

When testing desirability, the ability to test an actual selection and to purchase it in a retail environment is all that is required by the impersonator. Feasibility tests examining the properties and differentiation of the product comes later.

How it’s done

In this experiment, a company takes an existing product from the market, typically one that closely resembles their envisioned product, and rebrands or repackages it under their own name. This could involve minor modifications to tailor it slightly to their target audience. The objective here is not to deceive customers but to learn from their reactions to the product, including their likes, dislikes, and overall usage patterns.

By using an existing product, companies can bypass the lengthy and resource-intensive process of developing a prototype from scratch. This allows them to rapidly gather insights about customer preferences and market demand. The feedback obtained through this method is invaluable in refining the product concept and making informed decisions about whether to proceed with development.

An important aspect of the Impersonator experiment is its focus on customer experience and interaction with the product. It provides a real-world testing environment, allowing companies to observe how customers use the product, what features they find appealing, and any potential issues or shortcomings. This direct customer feedback is crucial in shaping the final product to ensure it meets the market’s needs and expectations.

After the experiment

To make sure you move forward, it is a good idea to systematically record your the insights you learned and what actions or decisions follow. We created a sample Learning Sheet, that will help you capture insights in the process of turning your product ideas successful. Download the Learning Sheet.



To test their business idea fast and cheap, Zappos initially purchased shoes from local shoe retailers as orders came in instead of investing in and stocking their own inventory.

Source: Is Your MVP Minimal Enough?

Tesla & Lotus Elise

When Tesla wanted to create a pure electric roadster in 2003, Tesla created a prototype of what the car would look like to convince potential buyers. The base for the prototype was a Lotus Elise, heavily modified and not functional. Still, with a relatively small investment, Tesla was able to show prospective buyers a close proxy to the final design.

Source: Lotus Position (Tesla)


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