Consumer research, particularly when introducing a new product to the market, has an irrevocable influence on the success or failure of that product. Consumer research aims to uncover attitudes, motivators and behaviours that are at the heart of consumer activity as well as brand or product selection. It intends to either predict or understand consumer behaviour. There are two types of consumer research: quantitative and qualitative research (Algie, 2014). Quantitative research is descriptive in nature and endeavors to predict consumer behaviour using surveys, experiments and observation. Qualitative research however, works to form a detailed understanding of consumer behaviour using in-depth interviews, focus groups and projective techniques (Algie, 2014). Whilst both have their merits, it is advisable to use a dual approach when researching consumer behaviour to produce optimum results (Algie, 2014). When developing new products or product line extensions, consumer research is vital. It can rule out bad ideas in the initial stages of the development process and “prevents unjustified investments” (Van Kleef, 2006).
There are numerous examples of products in the food and drink category that failed miserably due to poor consumer research. Two memorable examples, both produced by the Coca Cola company, were New Coke and Coca Cola Blak. New Coke was released in 1985 after Coca Cola conducted blind taste tests which found consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi. To remedy this, the Coca Cola company produced a new sweeter formula which research showed consumers enjoyed more than both classic Coke and Pepsi (Hiskey, 2012). However, Coca Cola underestimated customers brand loyalty to classic Coke and shortly after the launch of New Coke, the company announced the return of the classic formula (Hiskey, 2012). This was something that could have been anticipated in the research stages of development if the right questions were being asked.
Similarly, the Coca Cola company produced an extension-line product called Coca Cola Blak in 2006 (Cleghorn, 2008). The product was a coffee-flavoured cola which took two years to develop and was targeted at adult consumers who were calorie conscious (Kamiri, 2006). Shortly after its launch, Coca Cola Blak was criticized for tasting horrible and was pulled from shelves just over a year after its release (nickgerlich, 2007). This is an example that reiterates the importance of listening to consumers and conducting detailed research, particularly when something as obvious as taste was the reason for the products demise.
By looking at two examples, both produced by the Coca Cola company, it is evident that consumer research is vital when developing new products and plays a major role in the success or failure of a product or brand.
If you want to see some more bizarre food products that failed, have a look here:
Algie, J 2014, ‘Week 2: Consumer Research’, Lecture, MARK217, University of Wollongong, delivered 13 March 2014
Cleghorn, D 2008, ‘Why Coca Cola Blak failed’, YahooVoices, blog post, 10 December, viewed 18 March 2014, http://voices.yahoo.com/why-coca-cola-blak-failed-1988114.html?cat=35
Hiskey, D 2012, ‘Why coke tried to switch to “new coke”‘, todayifoundout.com, 23 November, viewed 18 March 2014, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/11/why-coke-tried-to-switch-to-new-coke/
Nickgerlich 2007, ‘Blak Eye’, WordPress, blog post, 7 September, viewed 18 March 2014, http://nickgerlich.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/blak-eye/
Van Kleef, E 2006, Consumer Research in early stages of new product development: Issues and applications in the food domain, StudyMode.com, viewed 18 March 2014, http://www.studymode.com/essays/Consumer-Research-In-The-Early-Stages-922216.html