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Marketing Matters: The Sweet Smell of Success

By: Donna C. Barson
Posted: November 8, 2007, from the November 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

It is often said that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Marketers, however, know that does not tell the whole story. While the success of a new product certainly does contain a mixture of sweat and “lightbulb over the head” moments, it also owes an awful lot to how the product is marketed.

To illustrate, liquid soap is one of the most successful personal care products of the past quarter century. It was introduced in 1980
to a market that was already completely served by bar soap. Why would a consumer want to switch? Yet, the marketing campaign for the product was so successful in getting consumers to try the product that liquid soap now commands approximately 25% of the market.

But what if liquid soap had been marketed a different way, a way that would have doomed the product? The marketplace is certainly not kind to innovation; more than 80% of new products fail in the first three years.

While there are numerous factors as to why products fail, four of the most common are:

  • Lack of Target Market Definition—Many times, companies do not carefully define the product’s target market. You can’t appeal to everyone. Even trying is like a dog chasing its tail; the dog never catches it but spends a lot of time and energy trying.
  • Lack of Research—This encompasses several areas, including lack of a dialogue with customers about what they want and need, not carefully defining the market opportunity and failing to examine the niche the product fills.
  • The Product Itself—The fault may lie with the product. It may be positioned incorrectly, may not offer appropriate benefits or perform as promised, or it may be undifferentiated from other products in the marketplace.
  • Distribution—There is often an inadequate assessment of the various channels that can be used to sell a product. Each channel offers its own unique benefits, and each has its own unique drawbacks.

But instead of focusing on failure, let’s examine two recent brand introductions that have succeeded: tarte cosmetics and Pangea Organics.