Why do new products fail?


RWEI’m not much on poetry. I’ve seen Dead Poets Society several times, but I don’t think that qualifies me as an expert. Nevertheless, I did know that Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t actually say, “make a better mousetrap and the world will make a beaten path to your door.” What he actually said was, “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

The concept is pretty much the same – if you have a better product, then people will want to buy it. Here’s the thing – it’s just not true. It’s not about making a better mouse trap, it’s about making a better mouse trap and having a good marketing and distribution plan!

As a full-service premier advertising agency, people often ask bloomfield knoble to help us market their product. We diligently go through our RUDE process and come up with a sound marketing and distribution plan only to be told that it’s too expensive, or not necessary, because everyone will want their product because they do it differently . . . better . . . and it’s NEW! I get why firms do it – typically 25% of all firm revenues come from products that are less than three years old. Furthermore, new products account for 33% of all growth. It is apparent that any firm that does not invest in new products will suffer in terms of both profit and growth. However, new product development entails uncertainty and even experienced marketers (like bloomfield knoble) can not completely and accurately predict the fate of products. It depends on what market a company is in, but a safe rule of thumb is that 25% of new products will fail.

Many products fail because the strategic plan by which they were introduced to the market wasn’t sufficiently well-executed. You can have a better mousetrap but fail, because you don’t actually go to market in the right way. When people come to us with their new products, they’re really saying they have something better than what’s out there in the marketplace. People believe that “better”  is a relative advantage and they’ll win in the marketplace, but it’s just not the case. Relative advantage alone will not generate adoption. A marketing strategy cannot rely solely on the inherent superiority of the product.

I’m proud to say that bloomfield knoble has been a part of quite a few product launches. I’m also a little embarrassed to say that not all of the products we helped launch were successful. I can say, with complete confidence, that it’s not because of the marketing plan. What experience has taught us is not so much “how to do it right” as much as an understanding of why new products fail:

Poor market definition or wrong target market – not everyone wants your product or service. A strategy that is too broad, or focuses on the wrong target market, is sure to fail.

Insufficient or poor market research – if you don’t understand wants or needs then there is little chance that your product will appeal to the target market.

Price set too high or too low – price too high is obvious, but a price that is too low is often misinterpreted as being of low quality.

Poor advertising placement – similar to target market – if you’re telling a story to the wrong people, then you’re missing out.

Wrong distribution strategy – it’s important to pay attention to the entire pipeline of businesses and organizations that a product travels to reach the consumer. Choose poorly and product is sure to fail.

Wrong physical placement in store – I’ve seen this one first hand – if your product isn’t in the right place, then it’s likely not to be noticed (or considered too much of an effort to find).

Poor marketing mix execution – if product, price, place and promotion do not work well together, it can undermine the entire marketing strategy.

Poor timing of launch – this really has two meanings – don’t launch something wrong time of year (ice cold soda in winter, for example) and don’t launch a product if it’s not ready for market.

Relative advantage alone will not generate adoption. A marketing strategy cannot rely solely on the inherent superiority of the product. Coming to a deep understanding of your product, and especially how customers use your product, will help bloomfield knoble help you develop the right marketing strategy.

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