Which do you prefer, high acceptability scores or high sales?
September 6, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The above sounds like a dumb question, but recently I had to ask that of a friend. He was looking for ways to raise the acceptability of his new product. It seems that his company had a standard target for new products to meet. To move your product forward in this company, you needed to achieve a certain level of “Definitely Would Buy” votes regardless of the product category, consumer need or product effectiveness.
You’d expect a company to be looking at the following:
The company was only interested in the overall appeal across the total population. To me that is short sighted. If you accept that the population is diverse with different likes and different needs, to make a product that has universal appeal, it would fail to address the specific needs and likes of individual segments of the population. The result would be a product that people like but do not purchase because there will be an alternative that specifically addresses the consumers’ needs or desires.
- The consumer need
- The proportion of the population with the need
- The effectiveness of the product
- How easily can the consumer see the results of the product
As an example, I always fall back to my early years with Procter & Gamble. I was there for the preliminary work on both Tide and Pampers. If we had followed the concept of universal appeal before entering the market, neither brand would have made it to the market. Pampers had a terrible time overcoming the image of poor motherhood in its early days. If you listened to a majority of the consumers, they would never purchase the brand. In the case of Tide, it was a frequent blind test loser but we persisted because of the cleaning ability in the face of negative fabric care results. Through much of the initial years, Tide was considered inferior to the conventional soap products for fabric care. In the early years laundry was hung outside. The result was that clothes washed in Tide were stiff as a board, while clothing washed in soap were very soft. Thanks to the advent of fabric softeners and clothes dryers, the soap advantage in fabric condition disappeared.
Another good example is that of Ivory Bar Soap. I don’t know brand shares today, but for 20 years when I was involved with the brand, it was the leading seller in the bar soap category. If you paired it with almost any of the other bars on the market, however, it would be an 80/20 loser at least. Its overall acceptability score was one of the lowest in the category but it was a solution to the needs of a small but loyal group of homemakers.
In Products Research, the objective should be a solution to a need, not acceptability. We can always buy acceptability through the use of perfumes, colors and other physical characteristics. As my mentor once said, “A product without a need will not be a product very long.”
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