Section 18 Revulsion factors

February 7th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments
WINNERS = Products which do not offend anyone regardless of how they are used.

A revulsion factor is a feature, use, or characteristic of a product that causes a person to be offended by, or otherwise persuaded not to buy, a product.

Many years ago a client brought a product to me that initially looked like a real winner.  When we held our first “focus group” on the product we discovered to our horror that the benefits of the product were great but the way the developer had suggested using it proved to be in bad taste to several prospective end-users.

We changed the directions, the shape of the product, and the manner in which it was used and had excellent response at our next focus group.

A few years ago, a European company, N.V.Phillips, tried to market a tabletop microwave oven in the U.S.  The Company’s initial research had concluded, accurately, that when individual dinners were prepared in a microwave oven, for a family, and then placed on the table as they came out of the oven, some of the dishes got cold before the whole family could sit down to eat.  They decided there would be a need for a table top microwave oven which would sit in the center of the table, act as a centerpiece, and could be used to warm plates which had become cold.  However, they failed to do a focus group of American end-users, and simply designed the product the way they thought it should look.

When Phillips unveiled the product in the U.S., it had one main bullet-shaped housing, flanked on each side by two smaller bullet-shaped housings, and it looked like the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, which had just gotten lots of “bad press” for the problems it was experiencing.  Consumers were appalled at the resemblance between the microwave oven and our nuclear power plants.  No one wanted Three Mile Island on their dining room table.  The product was pulled from the shelves within three months.

I have seen many products that were designed around “sick” jokes, or plays on words.  They were clever, and sometimes funny, but often at others’ expense.  Usually, they are revolting to society in general or to one segment of society.  These are things people will laugh at but not buy in mass quantities.  The only exception to this is when a product receives so much bad press after its introduction, that the sheer amount of publicity results in what we call a “negative sales campaign”, wherein the intent of the media is to express horror and repugnance at the sale of the product, but the end result is the creation of more demand for the product.  Some people view the T.V. coverage or read the negative articles and then purchase the products out of their desire to “make a statement to society” or to revolt against that group of people known to them as “the establishment”.  The developer is advised that “the establishment” is by far the majority, for marketing purposes, and when they make their “statement” it will be with their wallet (by keeping it closed, which will limit the time the product will remain on the market, limit the amount of sales achieved while it is on the market, limit the profit attained from the product, or all of the above.

The developer who produces a product which could be considered “pornographic”, risks being labeled forever as the individual or company “that produced that foul, obnoxious, or obscene widget”.  Any future attempts at bringing out beneficial or quality products will be overshadowed by the negative image of the prior product and it can take years to rebuild a “tarnished” reputation.  Certainly, this is a prime example of why product developers must have a firm grasp on their personal and company values which will influence their decision on how to handle such a product.  Personally, I may laugh at a lot of them, but I become involved only with wholesome products that have no foreseeable chance of injuring anyone.  Those are my values.

Early discovery and remedy of a revulsion factor can prevent big losses in the market place.  The more evaluators you use on a new product, the better chance you have of finding a revulsion factor in time. If you plan on marketing your product in foreign countries, you must be sure the name, “tag-line”, and written and verbal description of your product has the same meaning, when translated, in the foreign countries as it does here.  A funny (but costly) example is when General Motors tried to have Chevrolet dealers in Mexico sell their Chevrolet Nova.  All the dealers laughed at them.  Finally one dealer pointed out that “No va” in Spanish means “WON’T RUN” or “NO-GO”.  Could you imagine how silly you would look trying to interest someone in a brand new “won’t run”.  Another example in our own English language is the fact that In the U.S. if you ask someone for a “napkin” they will hand you a paper or linen dinner napkin.  If you ask someone in England for a “napkin”, they will hand you a women’s Kotex style “sanitary napkin”.  In England the word napkin is not customarily used at the table.

The worst mistake you can make in this section is to belittle the significance of a revulsion factor in the eyes of the target audience.

What may seem insignificant to you may be a red, flashing “don’t buy” sign in the minds of the target audience.  Worse yet, in today’s society, you may introduce your product on a Monday and by Tuesday have hordes of sign-carrying protestors, in front of your business, from a “special interest group” lined up outside your door, with members of the press and television crews interviewing them.



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