Solving Marketing Mysteries

From Businessweek, an interview with Marty Neumeier, author of Zag. Neumeier spins one of the fundamental motherhood rules of brand management (differentiation) into this book, based on the simple idea that a statement such as “Our brand is the only _____ that ______.” is essential to building a strong brand.

A much more interesting part of the book is a a Good Versus Different graph, in which he plots products into four quadrants based on their performance along the two axes of good (high quality, workmanship, aesthetics, etc.) and different (surprising, fresh, offbeat, etc.). The surprise is that products in the Not Good and Not Different quadrant, obviously a bad place to be, tend to test well in market research, while products in the best quadrant of Good and Different tend to test poorly.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious danger spelled out above, a very common practice today seems to be to test new products in exactly this way, without stopping to think about when such testing might actually be useful.

Neumeier offers an alternative for those managers who are unable or unwilling to take the “leap of faith” or judgement required to solve the class of decision problems that Malcolm Gladwell would call Mysteries.

If you apply straight-line metrics to ideas like these, you get a resounding “no-go”. The trick is to evaluate ideas the way a designer would, by matching the customer reactions to previous success patterns. What you’re looking for is not an idea that everybody believes is terrific, but an idea that gives people pause, yet that has undeniable benefits over existing alternatives.

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