Don’t sell concepts, build great products

One should understand that a concept is not a product. A concept is only one part of a product. Imagine yourself how many attributes you take care of when you want to buy a washing machine. Concept is all about how and what does the product do. But customers don’t buy products only by understanding how and what the product does. If you assume so, you’re thinking that you can sell concepts to customers. Customers don’t buy concepts they buy products. A great concept can be turned to a disastrous product if you make assumptions and don’t understand your target customers.

The failure of RJ Reynolds’ greatest idea

Tobacco marketing is very challenging with so much of regulation and an anti-social and unhealthy thought towards it. So companies have come up with many variants based on different levels of tar, trying to convince consumers to use it. The beer companies have used similar strategy launching Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc. In 1988, the anti-smoking lobbyists with a lot of public support have succeeded in officially recognizing that passive smoking is injurious to health. Like all other cigarette companies the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company is not happy with the growing unhealthy image.

RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company spent years of research and money to come up with a genius idea of a smokeless cigarette. This is a great idea, a marketer’s delight. The amount of thought that went into the conception and implementation of this great concept is really amazing. RJ Reynolds named this product as ‘Premier’.

Premier is a great ambitious concept without doubt. But what had been forgotten is the product. Premier tasted like shit and is very difficult to inhale. People didn’t like Premier and the dream of RJ Reynolds fired back. The least thing that RJ Reynolds would have expected is the Premier cigarette to be used as a delivery device for cocaine. Why a company like RJ Reynolds did this mistake?

Parental bias of entrepreneurs

This is a very common mistake I observe in many ideas in general. Entrepreneurs think that their idea is a revolution; hence people will not mind little pain to use their product. Many times product managers and entrepreneurs show examples of other products where the extra pain is taken by the user. Though two products are the same, they may be used in different ways by different segments of people. The psychological need that is satisfied might be very different. Entrepreneurs and products managers should bring absolutely no bias in their evaluation.

The problem is it is not easy to know how much pain the customers will take to use your product. This is more relevant to new categories or completely new products where you don’t have any existing category knowledge. This is the trap. As it is a new category or a completely innovative product, entrepreneurs think this product is the best option for the user, and assume that the user will be happy with this option than having no option at all. But remember, having no product is better than having a bad product.

It is hardly any easy to foresee how your product will be perceived in the market. Most great concepts and products fail because of assumptions made by its creators. The creators are so obsessed with the baby, that they are not willing to listen that people don’t need their baby. Often marketers report that their research shows that people like this concept and assume the concept as the product.

People don’t want concepts, people want products. I believe this can be done.



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