This 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 outlines the thoughts a great marketer (Louis Cheskin) had on packaging: "Cheskin was convinced that when people give an assessment of something they might buy in a supermarket or a department store, without realizing it, they transfer sensations or impressions that 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 make a distinction – on an unconscious level – between the package and the product. The product is the package and the product combined. "
A key concept in this chapter is that experts are often more reliable at identifying what will work – or won't – in the marketplace than market research based on consumer surveys. For small business marketers, then, this chapter is a must-read. You know full-well you rarely have the money for consumer surveys.
Gladwell explores the New Coke debacle and the incompleteness of the market research that led up to it. Although this is a well-known marketing mistake, Gladwell supplies his typical journalistic behind-the-scenes story, and clues us in on why the marketing information that Coke marketers used to base their decision on was flawed to begin with.
Even more fascinating is his exploration of the musician named Kenna, a person music experts agree should be a smash, but can't get Top 40 airtime on radio because market research can't capture the same information the experts see in a Blink.
Why? Because as Gladwell points out, the "… first impressions of experts are different … more esoteric and complex." (p. 179). Kenna's music is different and hard to put a specific label on, so the music market research can't adequately measure him.
Gladwell also relates the story of the Aeron chair – a new product with a completely innovative look that even experts said would fail. But with this chair, which looked so different, people did not know how they themselves felt about it; Gladwell says consumers "misinterpreted their own feelings" (p. 173). Market research indicated the chair would fail, but it did, because it was a great product.
What's this chapter mean for the small business owner? Two lessons.
For one, we need to understand the limits of market research. This method is not fool-proof nor will it guarantee market success or prevent market failure.
Second, the small business owner should learn to recognize in just what areas she is expert and in what subjects she is not. In areas where you know you are an expert – where your years of experience have taught you well and you can now realize something in a blink about your industry or your industry as it relates to your customers-well on those topics it's a safe bet that you really are an expert.
However, a key pitfall is to then think you are expert in all areas of your business. You aren't, and even your customers aren't. They are super-savvy purchasers, but they, too, are not always aware of why they do what they do … so, where possible, study what they do, and then find out ways to alter that behavior in your favor.
Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.
© 2006 Marketing Hawks