New Product Messages Not Getting Through

Discussion
Mar 10, 2008

By Tom Ryan

According to a new survey, only 23 percent of 1,000 American consumers could recall a new product introduced in 2007. Joan Holleran, editor of New Product magazine, one of the study’s providers, remarked to MediaPost, “It’s like consumers are saying: ‘Could you spend a little more on research and development, instead of just creating line extensions?'”

The research was conducted by Information Resources Inc., New Products magazine, comScore, and Schneider Associates.

When presented with a list of new products introduced last year, Apple’s iPhone topped the list with a 37 percent recall rate. Rounding out the top ten (in order) were Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, Febreze-branded candles, Domino’s Oreo Dessert Pizza, the over-the-counter diet aide Alli, Oreo Cakesters, Diet Coke Plus, Subway Fresh Fit Meals, Motorola’s RAZR 2, and Listerine White Strips.

“Companies need to be more savvy about marketing their [new] products,” Char Partelow, SVP/business and consumer insights at IRI, told Marketing Daily. “You need to be where they are.”

In a similar survey last year, a worse 19 percent of respondents could recall a new product in 2006. Researchers attributed the media buzz surrounding the iPhone launch for the better performance for 2007.

While the research underscored that consumers have short attention spans around new products, the results showed that the top memorable products were line extensions. Researchers also noted that most of the memorable new products experimented with their marketing mix – using blogs, word of mouth and PR-generated media to get the word out.

They didn’t just rely on one or two common ways of getting their message across,” Mr. Holleran said.

Separate research by IRI showed that those new products touting a health and wellness claim were the most successful last year. The research shows that Campbell’s Reduced Sodium Soup was the top new product seller last year. Other top sellers included General Mills Fiber One Chewy Bars, Dannon’s DanActive Probiotic Dairy Drinks and Activia Light Yogurt, and Sara Lee’s Heart Hearty & Delicious breads.


“During the next year, demand will explode for function food and beverages that deliver health benefits beyond basic nutrition,” said Anne Berlack, IRI executive vice president/business and consumer insights, in a statement. “Retailers and manufacturers that marry functional benefits with effective consumer education, as Dannon did this year with DanActive Immunity-boosting beverages, will win big.”

In the non-food category, the most successful products looked to create a more pleasant experience in everyday chores and personal care. While Huggies’ Supreme Natural Fit Diapers topped the non-food category, other successful products included Tide’s Simple Pleasures Detergent, Gain’s Joyful Expressions Detergent and Febreze Noticeable Air Fresheners.

Discussion Questions: Is the fact that consumers can’t recall new products primarily a marketing problem? Or is it more of an R&D problem? How can brands and retailers do a better job coming out with memorable new product launches?

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16 Comments on "New Product Messages Not Getting Through"


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Mike Spindler
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Mike Spindler
14 years 2 months ago

Consumers are looking for products that are relevant to their lifestyles and concerns. This ultra-segmentation requires manufacturers to target their designs for narrower usage groups. That plus Dan’s media proliferation and the age-old shelf squeeze….

Translation: it’s harder for products and consumers to find each other–via advertising, online, in-store…anywhere.

Bill Kennedy
Guest
Bill Kennedy
14 years 2 months ago

Consumers can’t recall new products because they are bombarded with so many that it takes the novelty out of it.

Brands have tried to build market share by taking on every little niche rather than building on the tried and true. Yes, you have to develop new product lines, but too much is overkill. Perhaps if they focused on what they already know, they would build rather than dilute their brands.

Dan Raftery
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Another issue implied by this research is message overload that materializes in two ways. 1). Most message senders agree that there is no best media now, because so many choices are available. For message receivers this means bombardment from all angles. 2). The proliferation of new items for so many years has desensitized consumers. “What is a new item?” might be an interesting project. Maybe the iPhone is so memorable because it cuts through the clutter and fog on its own merits.

Mark Hunter
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Mark Hunter
14 years 2 months ago

And this is a new problem? Simple economics states that this will always be an issue as both manufacturers and retailers attempt to maximize revenue while at the same time reducing expenses. One can make an argument for either side of this problem, depending on your perspective…or should I say, your current financial condition.

We only have to look back over the last 30 years of CPG history to see how this argument has come up nearly every year as people argue about the right way to build a business using line-extensions or truly new breakthrough items. After it’s all said and done, the one thing that has not changed is that the vast majority of new items continue to fail, making the upfront investment to launch a new item that much greater of a risk.

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Consumers can’t recall new products because most of what the major advertising companies come up with are merely line extensions aimed primarily at grabbing shelf real estate away from more entrepreneurial and more innovative products with smaller advertising and marketing budgets.

Most truly innovative ideas are not born in large CPG corporations. Consumers are bored with what the large CPG companies are putting out on the market and not paying much attention. Retailers need to resist just adding on all the me-too line extensions and make room for new products from small CPG companies that will stimulate consumers’ new interests, and new dollars, while shopping the aisles.

Message to retailers: make a commitment to stock some items in your POGs that don’t yet have huge IRI share, and that your competitors had not even thought yet about carrying. Dare to be different…it really works!

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

It is not as simple as marketing vs. research & development. Sometimes a line extension is needed to keep a product in tune with a market place that is changing. Other times it is done to keep management jobs.

Fact is, new innovative products are not easy to develop and market. Couple this with time-starved, highly segmented consumers and the marketing communication problems only compound.

Anne Howe
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

My sense is that the key issue in remembering new product launches is true relevancy. Yes, an integrated campaign is essential.

So is spot-on messaging that delivers a key brand benefit and a reason that brand is relevant to the target consumer/shopper.

The best example I can reference this year is the launch of the Greenworks line, natural cleaning products from Clorox. The appeal to consumers’ desire for more environmentally friendly products that work, at price points that are affordable delivers relevancy on multiple levels.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 2 months ago

The success rate for truly new products is low, the cost is high, and the clutter that blocks the path to the consumer is deep. iPhones pop because they have the “wow” factor (not sure what that is, but I know it when I see it). Line extensions almost by definition don’t have the “wow” factor, but they can build off an established base.

Oreos for example, have a great base, so a line extension may build a small amount of awareness on top of that already big base.

This question really drills back to innovation–who is truly innovating and what does it take to do successful innovation today? The answer, I believe, is that not that many companies are truly innovating because (see the intro) the barriers and costs are high and it is easier to make incremental gains off line extensions.

John Lingnofski
Guest
John Lingnofski
14 years 2 months ago

While Mr. Hunter is correct that most new items fail over time, CPG manufacturers and retailers know that new items drive sales. Numerous studies have demonstrated that new items–even a simple new line extension–cause a spike in sales over the first 12-18 weeks of introduction. And, as many CPG new item intros are coming in at higher dollar rings, retailers are motivated to capture this low hanging fruit.

And, as Mr. Raftery notes, message overload is real and it extends beyond CPG. I wonder how many consumers can recall more than one new TV show that launched last year? Or new car model? I can’t….

Max Goldberg
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

Most CPG and HBC companies think that the only way to increase sales is by introducing line extensions. Consumers that are already deluged with choices, suddenly find even more choices. What the survey shows is extension fatigue. How many consumers are going to notice the launch of yet another flavor of toothpaste?

Products that are truly different or satisfy a pressing consumer need will stand out, unaided, in consumers’ minds.

Brand managers should consider a new line extension in terms of a story, and ask themselves if the attributes of the new product will better the existing brand story or simply be a tangent. Being a tangent only adds to advertising and retail clutter. Truly bettering a brand story will frequently lead to bottom line success.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
14 years 2 months ago

The wrong question is being asked. I may not remember what new products were introduced in 2007, but I may still be buying them. Rather than asking what the consumer remembers, they should be asked what they are buying. Only what I buy puts money in the cash register.

Consumers are overwhelmed by the overabundance of new products, when in fact, most perform only marginally better if at all vs. what they hope to replace. Marketing and R&D focused on existing products would be far more cost-efficient than developing and marketing ever-new line extensions, etc.

Jeffery M. Joyner
Guest
Jeffery M. Joyner
14 years 2 months ago
How could the average consumer remember product launches? There are so many that the novelty of them diminishes quickly. You might agree that it is not productive to spend time identifying blame. The better use of time is to determine new steps to make brand and product launches appealing enough to be remembered. Often the answer is not just another line extension designed to guard shelf space. The products are largely what the highlighted products have done. They have filled a need for consumers and helped to make life better. This fulfillment of need has always been sought by manufacturers, retailers and the consumer. However, with the dramatic changes that are occurring in the profile of the consumer, those health, feel better and good for you products will continue to outshine others. Lastly, many of the better new items don’t get the opportunity they deserve. Retailers should make an extra effort to pay more than the usual attention to the niche products and manufactures. Many of them have items that add incrementally to the financial… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
14 years 2 months ago
I’d submit that the “low-hanging fruit” enjoyed by retailers in regard to new products are not so much the early novelty sales as the introductory fees they collect from manufacturers. The system is stacked so that the profits from actual sales on many new products may be nearly irrelevant in some instances. For the retailer, it’s the allowance that’s the addiction. This circumstance tends to foster excess numbers of introductions, which coupled with inconsistent in-store implementation, result in slow speed-to-shelf and generally poor coordination. Stores are clogged with too many irrelevant new products, and we don’t have an adequate handle on which ones they are – or why they fail. What is needed here is intelligent loss of work. Initiating fewer, more carefully selected and chosen introductions, with more consistent in-store backing and marketing support, would go a long way toward improving the success statistic on product introductions. Where there is compliance, there is at least a chance of understanding success factors. Where those insights are accumulated, manufacturers will have the tools to edit their… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 2 months ago

Notwithstanding the fact that R&D is an element of marketing and can’t be separated from it (call me crazy, but I learned this while earning a doctorate in marketing), bland and uninformative statements like Char Partelow’s “You need to be where they [the customers] are” are both unremarkable and unreportable. D’Oh! Why are we reading and responding to this tripe?

Contrary to the premise of this RetailWire question, there is no “fact” that consumers can’t recall new products. On what would one base this questionable statement? Ceding credibility and attention to so-called “research” involving a paltry 1,000 consumers nationwide and “reporting” the results is grossly irresponsible. Must be a slow news day.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 2 months ago

If the product is unique, and is truly revolutionary, consumers will recall the product introductions. But the fact is, and others have pointed this out, that most new products are nothing more than line extensions or “me-too” products. Branded marketers look lees to innovation in R&D, and are more focused on how they can manufacture a similar product for less money than their competitors.

Create an innovative product, and people will get the new product message.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 2 months ago

The overemphasis on new products generates opportunities for companies like Prestige Brands (PBH) and TSG Consumer Partners. These firms buy unwanted brands like Cutex, Comet, Compound W, Chloraseptic, and Spic and Span. They invest appropriately and expand their sales.

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