Why Great Products Fail


One thing I always promised myself after I completed my formal education was to never stop learning.  I still remember the day I went to see the VP of HR at one of the companies I worked at, and asked if there was an education program available for employees because I wanted to take a management course at Harvard.  I still remember the look on her face. It basically spelled c-r-a-z-y.

I haven’t really worried about it since that day because the amount of informal learning that I am doing most days is incredible.  For instance, I once believed in the theory that any great product could sell itself.  Maybe. Maybe one in a hundred, but who would place a bet with those odds? Certainly not any one of your investors.

The fact is product makes up 20% of the success equation.  Street smarts makes up another 20% and the remaining 60% is marketing.  Why is the marketing variable so high? Because the majority of people (those that fall well within the boundaries of the bell curve) actually have very similar likes. 

Let’s test my theory. Is a Starbucks coffee really that much better than say a McDonald’s coffee? Think about it for a minute…if the roles were reversed and McDonald’s opened up cafés with great ambience (fireplace, mild jazz, warm leather couches) and Starbucks was sold only at Wendy’s, would you suddenly see a line form outside Wendy’s.  The answer is simple. No, you certainly would not.

People don’t necessarily buy the best products.  They buy into an idea, a feeling, a trend, a label and a sense of belonging.  And how do you create the right idea, feeling, trend, and label and/or sense of belonging?  You pour thought and creativity into marketing.  If companies spent as much time thinking about the right marketing mix as they do think about a product feature that may not even have been tested in the market, I guarantee you the return on investment would be exponentially higher with money spent on marketing then R&D.

With the advent of social media, marketing is quickly becoming as much as a science as an art.  Pour more time into implementing and executing a strategic marketing plan and you will be amazed at the results.  If you have a McDonalds coffee in your portfolio, watch it quickly become the product/service that people want to be associated with as a result of an outstanding marketing plan and well-executed marketing campaign.

Posted on February 28, 2014 .