Target Market & Product/Service Decisions

target market research and product service making decisions
Most of us know what happened when coca-cola introduced “New Coke” in the mid eighties, the backlash that followed. Even though when the response from the target market sample was strong, around 88% of target market sample approved the new flavor strongly, while the remaining 10-12% were against the very idea of “New Coke”. 

It happens all the time, University of California went for re-branding and ended up with a branding disaster, like the new coke, majority of their target market sample approved and appreciated the whole re-branding, everything was going in the right direction for almost an year and then an unfathomable disaster struck the university.
What actually happened was, an undergrad UC student went for a petition at that was “Stop the New UC Logo” and that’s when the whole disaster unfolded, the beginning of dark days for UCL Marketing team, the same happened with Coca-Cola on larger scale in wake of “New Coke” debacle.

These are just couple of cases I picked from hundreds where decisions regarding product/service had initially favorable response from the target market but then things went awry later on. 

I have bolded few sentences in the above paragraphs for a reason, both of these sentences explicitly declares that target market samples approved their decisions regarding their product /service.

Everything was crystal clear, initial results were great but then after a while things got ugly, something none of the organizations (Coca-Cola, UCL) had expected.

Okay Whats Your Point ?!

My point is the whole approach is flawed, they could have avoided these disasters by just adding a minor but an essential step to their decision making.

Flawed?!! Tell Me How ?!!

Okay I believe instead of going with a prototype (New Coke) or rebranded product/service (UCL) to your target market and asking about their opinions, thoughts etc which like I said were positive in case of both these organizations (Coca-Cola, UCL).

How about you start with initial idea, the position where you are and where you are heading in terms of product/service and informing your target market about that.

Let me put it in a kind of image (below), that way it will be easy for you to get the idea of what I am talking about.

Product Service Decision Making Image

In the above figure, the term POSITION represents an organization position regarding their product/service. 

Now what Coca-Cola and UCL has done was, instead of starting from position “Where You Are” or Position A they started from “Where You Are Headingor Position B, by testing prototypes (New Coke that is position B) and branded product/service (UCL logo that is position B).

Obviously the response would be strong, in support of the position B, I mean who doesn't like new stuff, but the problem is they never mentioned to their target at what cost, at cost of what, would they achieve that position B.

They just researched their target market opinions/response about position B only they never researched their target market in terms of the position A.

If they had started from there (from position A), things would have been a lot more different now, but sadly they didn’t and then as they say “accidents will happen” so it happened.

Okay Got it !! What’s Next ?!

I believe majority of my readers got the point I was trying to make, so now let’s move to the next step that is how to do it the right way.

Step One Begin With Position A

Start with the position A instead of B, position A in most cases relates to ideas, abstract, intangible stuff. Research your target market both qualitatively and quantitatively in terms of the position A.

For instance in coca-cola they could have researched their target market in terms of following questions like (these questions are related to position A).

-We are bringing up "new coke" dropping the present one, would you like it ?
-Would you prefer to have a new coke that taste like this (making them trying a sample) instead of the present one ?
-Should coke replace current coke with a totally new one that taste like this ? (again giving them a sample of the new coke to try)
-Would you like to have a totally different coke with the same brand name of present one or would you like to have it with a different brand name and why ?

Clearly such questions from a sizable market sample would have clearly predicted the looming disaster that would hit the coca-cola brand if they went with "New Coke" and so they would have avoided it long before it happened.

Obviously they didn't do it that way, rather they thought the strong favorable response from target market for "New Coke" meant a success! (Position B).

Step Two Assess

Assess the target market response regarding the position A thoroughly; make sure that the target market sample is as large as possible, as that would reveal the very minor differences of target market regarding position A.

Step Three Tweak

Tweak the idea, abstract accordingly, as per target market response. Achieve that harmony between position A and your target market. If you can't achieve the harmony then its better to not go for it!

Once tweaked, start with step one again, moving step two, keep on this cycle until you are sure no more tweaking is needed.

This will help in saving yourself from all the bad press, customer dissatisfaction, brand devaluation etc that is more likely when you start from position B.

Step Four Begin With Position B

Now is the right time to start working on position B. This position B you get will have cleared all the potential hurdles, problems you might face while moving from position A to B.

Thus this "Position B" is far better then the situations where the only position is the "Position B".

That’s it, I believe once you follow this approach you would be in better position to avoid any future disasters related to your product/service, brand etc.

Speak your mind, share your ideas about how can we improve the decision making regarding product/service in relation to target market, what would make this approach more sound and beneficial to the organizations, small businesses, Entrepreneurs. 

For further reading regarding UCL and its branding disaster, Click Here

About Publisher Arshad Amin

Certified SEO Professional, Small Business, Start-up, Marketing Expert with ton's of practical, actionable ideas, insights to share, Proud Founder and Owner of and

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