Here is article five of six in a series of lessons for small business marketers from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.
Wow, what a great chapter for marketers Chapter Five in Blink is. This quote on p. 160 describes the thoughts of a great marketer (Louis Cheskin) on packaging: “Cheskin was convinced that when people evaluate something that they could buy in a supermarket or department store, without realizing it, they transfer the sensations or impressions they have about the packaging of the product to the product itself. To put it another way, Cheskin believed that most of us don’t distinguish – on an unconscious level – between the packaging and the product. The product is the packaging and the combined product. “
A key concept of this chapter is that experts are often more reliable in identifying what will work – or not work – in the market than market research based on consumer surveys. For small business marketers, this chapter is therefore a must read. You know full well that you rarely have the money for consumer surveys.
Gladwell explores the New Coke debacle and the incompleteness of the market research that led to it. While this is a well-known marketing mistake, Gladwell provides his typical behind-the-scenes journalistic story and explains why the marketing information that Coke marketers based their decision on was flawed to begin with.
Even more fascinating is his exploration of the musician named Kenna, someone whom music experts agree should be a hit but can’t get Top 40 airtime on the radio because market research can’t. capture the same information experts see at a glance.
Why? Because, as Gladwell points out, “… the experts’ first impressions are different … more esoteric and complex.” (p. 179). Kenna’s music is different and difficult to put on a specific label, so the study of the music market cannot properly measure it.
Gladwell also tells the story of the Aeron chair – a new product with a completely innovative look that experts say would fail. But with this chair, which looked so different, people didn’t know what they thought about it themselves; Gladwell says consumers “misinterpreted their own feelings” (p. 173). Market research indicated that the chair would fail, but it didn’t because it was a great product.
What does this chapter mean for the small business owner? Two lessons.
On the one hand, we need to understand the limits of market research. This method is not foolproof and will not guarantee market success or prevent market failure.
Second, a small business owner must learn to recognize what areas he is an expert in and what areas he is not. In the areas where you know you are an expert – where your years of experience have taught you well and now you can achieve something in the blink of an eye on your industry or your sector as far as your customers are concerned – of course these subjects, it is a sure bet that you are truly an expert.
However, a major pitfall is to think afterwards that you are an expert in all areas of your business. You are not, and even your customers are not. They are very savvy buyers, but they too don’t always know why they are doing what they are doing … so, if possible, study what they are doing, then find ways to change that behavior in your favor.
Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your face to the customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing success.