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Why new products fail


As the plans for the rollout of 2018/2019 innovations are being developed I thought it would be a great time to address why new products fail. We often hear that 80% of new products fail within the first 18 to 24 months. And what I often hear is: “We did all our due diligence to make sure it was a good product yet it still failed.”

Here are five reasons products fail:

  1. Product failures are often blamed on bad research. But as long as the data is processed and labelled correctly, the findings aren't wrong. It needs to be interpreted with the right lens. Did you talk to the right group of people in the research? Were the results evaluated with the right group?  For example, if you are launching a deodorant for women, did you include men in the sample of results used to determine whether or not the product should launch?  An extreme example, but you get my point.

  2. Do you have a clear measure of what constitutes a good product? If you do not have clear action standards in place -- a set of benchmarks that must be met before proceeding to launch -- there is no way to know whether a product has done well or not. And different categories should have slightly different action standards. I was hired once to evaluate why a new product was failing and when I looked at the results of their concept test, the reason was obvious. The top two box purchase intent score was 35%. Compared to other tested concepts it was the highest but it was the best of a bad bunch. Generally speaking, if the concept doesn’t score at least a top two box purchase intent score of 60% don’t even bother. Even at 60% I would proceed with caution.

  3. Sometimes the desire to launch a product is greater than the quality of the idea. Perhaps there is a political reason to launch it, or maybe the retailer thinks it’s a great idea and has offered you incentives to launch it. Whatever the reason, once the data is manipulated to get the desired results, its validity goes out the window. You can make data say whatever you want if you slice it and dice it specifically enough. Ask yourself if the data you're using to evaluate the new product is appropriate for a true picture.

  4. If in the course of research a specific attribute continued to come up as problematic, chances are it is going to be a problem. Not addressing it by changing that attribute in a meaningful way will play out in market. In the example above with the very low purchase intent score, the research was done because the marketing team was told to do the research but it became a very expensive doorstop.  No one even looked at the results.

  5. It comes down to execution. All the research, planning and product evaluations have been done and analysed appropriately, but it is all theoretical until the rubber meets the road. It comes down to making sure you put the insights to work. It is absolutely necessary to get the distribution, pricing, merchandising, advertising and promotions right from the beginning. Did you follow the attributes you tested? Changing the product features and benefits after it has been tested makes the research much less useful.

Successful product launches can be achieved in a wide variety of ways but why they fail usually falls into these five categories. Don’t fall into the trap. Open your eyes and also listen to the consumer.

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