The first objective in marketing is discovering the needs of prospective customers. But these prospective customers may not always know or be able to describe what they need and want. When Apple built its first Apple II personal computer and started a new industry, consumers didn’t really know what the benefits would be and had to be educated about how to use personal computers. In contrast, Bell, a U.S. bicycle helmet maker, listened to its customers, collected hundreds of their ideas, and put several into its new products.11 This is where effective marketing research, the topic of Chapter 8, can help.
The Challenge: Meeting Consumer Needs with New Products
New-product experts generally estimate that up to 94 percent of the more than 40,000 new consumer products (food, beverage, health, beauty, and other household and pet products) introduced in the United States annually “don’t succeed in the long run.”12 Robert M. McMath, who has studied more than 110,000 of these new-product launches, has two key suggestions: (1) focus on what the customer benefit is, and (2) learn from past mistakes.13
The solution to preventing product failures seems embarrassingly obvious. First, find out what consumers need and want. Second, produce what they need and want, and don’t produce what they don’t need and want. The three products shown above illustrate just how difficult it is to achieve new-product success, a topic covered in more detail in Chapter 10.
Without reading further, think about the potential benefits to customers and possible “showstoppers”—factors that might doom the product—for each of the three products pictured. Some of the products may come out of your past, and others may be on your horizon. Here’s a quick analysis of the three products:
•Dr. Care Toothpaste. After extensive research, Dr. Care family toothpaste in its aerosol container was introduced more than two decades ago. The vanilla-mint-flavored product’s benefits were advertised as being easy to use and sanitary. Pretend for a minute that you are five years old and left alone in the bathroom to brush your teeth using your Dr. Care toothpaste. Hmm! Apparently, surprised parents were not enthusiastic about the bathroom wall paintings sprayed by their future Rembrandts—a showstopper that doomed this creative product.14