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         HOW TO PREDICT THE FUTURE
        OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE

     

    Recently a national trade magazine asked me to comment on how 'marketing
    psychology' could help manufacturers better estimate whether a product
    would succeed or fail -- before they spent a lot of money on its production
    and marketing roll-out.

    Without a Web connection to the future no one can predict that with much
    confidence. There are over 33,000 new products introduced each year,
    mostly grocery and health/beauty products. And nearly all of them -- over
    85% -- fail to meet their sales goals! Many of these products are just
    "new and improved" versions of current products; few are really innovative.
     But all have marketing budgets to convince consumers 'this is a product
    you can't live without!'

      WHAT MONEY CAN'T BUY

    The failure of most new products proves that money can't buy success.
    There are some products with tiny marketing budgets, like tasty Veggie Stix
    made by the family-owned Good Health company, which can't keep up with
    demand. Then there's Crystal Pepsi. Consumers didn't care that Pepsi had
    spent $100 million. They looked at it on the shelf, then reached for
    "real" carmel-colored Pepsi.

    Robert McMath and Thom Forbes wrote a fascinating book about product
    failures called "What Were They Thinking?" which lists some other notable
    marketing disasters. For example, did you ever buy rabbit jerky or
    cucumber deodorant? How about Hot Scoop Microwave Ice Cream Sundae? Or
    Clairol's Look of Buttermilk Shampoo? Of course, the legendary failures of
    New Coke and McDonald's Arch Deluxe, despite multimillion dollar
    advertising budgets, are so staggering that we use them as case studies in
    marketing classrooms.

    The lesson here is best summed up in an aphorism we've all known since
    childhood, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."
    So the real question the magazine editor had asked me was, "How do you get
    the horse to drink?" That's the question most companies ask. Its the
    wrong question.

    Marketing Psychology tells us that the more productive questions are, "Why
    does the horse drink?" and "What would keep him from drinking?" The first
    question focuses on the buyer's "needs," "wants" and "desires," while the
    second is concerned with the buyer's "fears."
    Those two questions are key to a realistic prediction about any new product.

      HOW ITS DONE

    Look at Go-Gurt, for example, which some of my grad students in Buyer
    Behavior analyzed. What they found should be enlightening for any marketer.
    General Mills' Go-Gurt is yogurt in soft plastic tubes. It comes in a
    variety of flavors like Chill Out Cherry, Berry Blue Blast, and Banana
    Burst. Its target market are active grade school children and, of course,
    their moms. The packaging features cartoon character kids having fun
    skateboarding while gripping several colorful Go-Gurt "portable yogurt" sticks.

    Go-Gurt is so successful that Time Magazine reported, "It is the
    fastest-selling yogurt product ever released . . . The company has sold
    $340 million worth of Go-Gurt . . . dethroning Dannon as the nation's
    leading yogurt maker."

    The Go-Gurt marketing campaign naturally has two target groups of buyers
    -- the kids who eat it and the moms who pay for it. Both have distinct
    sets of psychological buying motivations. For example, kids want a
    good-tasting sweet snack that's simple to eat, easily carried without
    spilling, and has a 'cool' image. Moms want a healthy snack that will
    please her child, won't spoil or spill, doesn't take any time to prepare,
    and has good value.

    Underlying these surface motives are deeper, unconscious buying
    motivations -- ones buyers are striving to satisfy. Children certainly
    want a sweet snack, but they also want adventure, to feel admired by peers,
    to feel special by using products especially designed for them, to not feel
    like a 'little kid,' etc. Sweet snacks which feed their psyche as well as
    their stomach will have the marketing edge.

      WHY IT WORKS

    How does Go-Gurt feed their psyche? Look at the packaging. Its sweeping
    pattern of strong red, blue, and yellow primary colors says its exciting,
    not a "namby-pamby" snack. The edgy cartoon, a grinning boy with a modern
    haircut slashing through red space on his skateboard says this snack is for
    cool, active kids who others admire. Its unstated promise is that a kid
    will never be embarrassed by eating it in front of friends. The blond boy
    is squeezing purple yogurt out of a big plastic tube, showing how easy it
    is to eat, and that it comes in cool food colors grown-ups would hate, like
    blue and purple. Finally, the whole image says this is a kids' product,
    not one which grown-ups might also like. Even the product name and flavors
    are cool, different, and active.

      GRABBING THEIR EMOTIONS

    Go-Gurt's entire marketing message for kids is visual. It zips by the
    higher-order verbal processing centers in the brain and shoots right into
    their emotions with a powerful message -- "This is a cool product, so
    you'll look cool if you use it." Sound familiar? Its the same emotional
    message cigarette makers have used for decades.

    On the other hand, Go-Gurt's message for mom is mainly verbal. While the
    visuals tell her that its a snack for cool kids -- and what mom doesn't
    want to think her kid is cool? -- its the words that satisfy her underlying
    buying motivations for protection, love, self-worth, and time.

    She reads that Go-Gurt is made by trustworthy General Mills and Yoplait, a proven
    leader in high quality yogurt. She knows the product and package look so
    cool that her child will like it, which will make her feel loved and happy.
    She knows yogurt is a healthy snack, one which a Good Mother would select.
    And the "portable yogurt" label suggests this product won't demand any of
    her scarce time to prepare, so she'll save time without feeling guilty.
     

    Go-Gurt's advertising and marketing all play on these same deep
    psychological themes. The manufacturers haven't tried to make the horse
    drink, but created a product that satisfies an existing "thirst" so the
    horse wants to drink. That's why Go-Gurt is a great example of
    psychological marketing.

    How about your products? The key to predicting product success is hidden
    in your buyer's mind. So look there first. After all, who wants to be
    remembered for trying to sell Toaster Eggs or edible deodorant?

     

    (c) Gary Witt, 2001

 

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