thought starters for thought leaders
3 Reasons Some Products Missed the Mark at Expo West
And How You Can Avoid Making the Same Mistakes
As always, Expo West was a real-life wonderland full of inspirational products and brilliant people doing amazing things. In fact, we wrote a full article detailing the top innovation-inspiring takeaways from the show. But unfortunately, despite having their hearts and passions in the right place, several products seemed to miss the mark. Without some significant changes, it’s hard to see these offerings achieving long-term success.
So, how did these products fall short—and more importantly, how can other marketers and innovators make sure they don’t make the same mistakes? Well, it turns out that most of the questionable offerings we identified at Expo West fell short in one (or more) of three main areas: they failed to successfully identify the proper who, what or why behind their product.
There were several brands that didn’t seem to know who their true target was—and many weren’t even interested in identifying one. We spoke to multiple brand leaders who told us they didn’t have a specific target because they saw their product as being for everybody. While there is an understandable desire to create the deepest possible pool of potential buyers, that age-old adage really is true—you can’t be all things to all people. Think about it, even brands of commodity products have core target consumers.
There were also brands that seemed to know who their target is, but not how to effectively reach them. For example, there was a kid-targeted fruit spread in a very sophisticated, adult-looking package and an adult-targeted snack chip with a very juvenile-looking mascot and packaging design.
Key learning: Identify your target—one that is neither too narrow nor too broad—and then stick to it. Learn all you can about this group of consumers, and make sure every aspect of your brand and product experience aligns to it.
Misses in this category tended to get most of the other pieces of the puzzle right—they knew their target, they had a desirable benefit, and they were positioned correctly… but what they delivered—the execution of the actual product—failed to meet expectations. Sometimes it was the product form, and other times it was the flavor or texture experience. Regardless, yes, it’s crucial to convince consumers to try your product, but it’s even more crucial to meet their expectations once they do. This is the way you earn all-important repeat purchases and build enduring success. (When it comes to concept testing, there’s a reason that after-use purchase intent is the single best predictor of in-market success.)
Key learning: Honesty is key. Be honest with yourself about your product’s performance and don’t fall into the trap of thinking “okay” is good enough. Solicit honest feedback you can trust. (We witnessed several people at Expo West tell brand reps how good their product was only to comment on how much they actually disliked it once they were a safe distance from the booth.) And be honest with consumers. Set realistic expectations about what consumers will experience. Overpromising and underdelivering is a sure shortcut to the graveyard of new products.
Most innovators know that large scale success is dependent on solving a consumer tension and delivering against a real unmet need or job to be done. However, there were countless times during Expo West where we found ourselves wondering why a particular product existed. These offerings didn’t solve a tension or meet a consumer need or bring anything of note to the table—so it was unfortunate to see founders spending so much money on products that seemed destined to fizzle out.
Key learning: Ideally innovation efforts should start with identifying an unmet need and then finding the best ways to meet it—not the other way around. However, sometimes companies do find themselves with an ingredient, technology, product or other asset that they want to leverage, and they need to find the best way to do so. In this case, it’s critical to find your reason for being—your “why.” And if you can’t find one, then maybe it’s best to keep that asset in your proverbial back pocket for a later time.
We’d love to help you create your brand’s next great innovation. Reach out to Cherri Prince to learn more about what Seed can do for you.
And be sure to check out our article examining our top innovation-inspiring takeaways from Expo West.
Adam Siegel is the Editor of The Accelerator and VP, Creative at Seed Strategy, where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning copy.