Do you need to spend money on “outside” experts?

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Answer: Only if you want to be successful! No matter how smart or how savvy your new products team is, you need to keep checking in with reality as you hurry down that path to marketplace introduction. If you are the only ones seeking answers from potential customers, there is no way to avoid the bias that comes from being too close to the project.

Many years ago (at least long enough that no one who worked on the project is still employed there!), a food company wanted to get in on the bandwagon of “healthier eating”. This was actually back in the 1980s when the idea of eating healthier was just emerging from the fringe to the center of attention.

Some of this company’s current products included side dishes. Delicious.  Popular. Successful. NOT healthy.

So the management challenged the product developers to come up with a new product that met several guidelines for healthier eating – no sodium, no fat, whole grains.  The marketing team did research that showed that consumers were interested in eating healthier products. They tested successful concepts that positioned this new entry as practically guaranteeing a longer life. They designed interesting packaging, priced the product just slightly above the current category, went to test market and failed miserably.

What went wrong? The package tasted better than the food. The product looked very appealing.  It tasted like cardboard – no salt, no mouthfeel other than straight rice and grains. While consumers had said that it tasted good enough because of its health advantages, in point of fact, no one wanted to eat it more than once.

So here’s the rule. Hire an outside expert to tell you when the emperor has no clothes on. If you’re in a food business, the translation is, “If it doesn’t taste good, consumers won’t want to keep eating it.”