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How can you encourage the success of a new product?

Caroline Cuny, GEM
Published on
24 January 2019

Why do some new products bomb even though they might have a great design? Often times this correlates to a lack of balance between market position and the target audience’s perspective of the product design. A recent study underlines that impact of implicit perceptions that can contribute to the success or failure of a new product.

The study was published in 2018 in The International Journal of Market Research. It was carried out by Caroline Cuny, professor and researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management and Université Grenoble Alpes, Jean-Pierre Mathieu, professor and researcher at Université Paris 13, Claire-Lise Ackermann, professor and research at Rennes Business School, and Imene Belboula, doctoral student at Université de Blida 2 in Algeria.

Product designers define various product typologies, ranges, ergonomics, color codes… All of these ingredients create a visual identity for the new product. Marketers define the product’s position in relation to competing offers. The idea is to communicate a unique added value for the product.

“The goal of our study was to demonstrate that maybe some failed product launches could be attributed to their visual design. Few product tests are carried out before designing a product. When such tests are implemented, they don’t work very well because our perception of such issues is automatic and unconscious. As a result, you cannot clearly explain the determining reasons for success or failure,” explains Caroline Cuny.

Implicit measurements of the priming paradigm

A product’s design must communicate the positioning aimed at by marketers. How can you ensure the two aspects match?

“To measure automatic, unconscious evaluations that are carried out by consumers, we used a methodology taken from cognitive and behavioural psychology: implicit measurements of the priming paradigm. The priming paradigm creates the following phenomena: a stimulus (primer) will influence how another (target) stimulus is processed. This priming effect happens when the target is recognized more quickly by those who receive the primer. This is also used to understand memories: when presented with a stimulus, it automatically activates all related traces in our memory,” explain Caroline.

The study carried out a test in which a photo of the product was shown and then a word associated with the target market position was shown. If both elements were associated, then the consumer reaction was quicker. “This test is built on implicits measurements of this priming paradigm. It enabled us to understand if product design elements were associated with conceptual design elements stored in the memory of potential consumers,” adds Caroline.

Verifying the harmony between design and market position

The study was carried out before the launch of electric toothbrushes made by Oral B. The comparative study checked three types of toothbrushes, each with different characteristics that interested marketers. Marketing characteristics included: design, esthetics, elegance, and sophistication. Functional characteristics included: performance, efficiency, gentleness, vigorousness, and reliability. The results of the test demonstrated that 4 out of the 11 marketing position elements were significantly associated with the toothbrush. Product differentiation was achieved thanks to design, esthetics, elegance and reliability.

“Our study doesn’t analyze the choice of market position. It simply confirms whether or not the design translates to the desired market position. This explains the importance of such tests before launch in order to check the balance between design and position. For example, if performance had been a key market position element, the test would have indicated the need to change the product design.”

“The conclusion is that implicit tests are complementary to traditional explicit tests for marketing new products. You have to foster collaboration between design and marketing and enable the possibility of modifying a design before a launch.”

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