“If You Build It…” Will They Come?

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“If you build it, they will come.” The slogan, whispered into Kevin Costner’s ear by the spirits in the cornfield, worked out pretty well in the movie.

But what if they didn’t come? What if nobody had actually been hoping for a chance to watch a baseball game played by guys who were famous long ago? (Granted, it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting one more chance to see Stan Musial stepping up to the plate with Whitey Ford on the mound, but still…)

The point is, just because someone builds a better mousetrap, that’s no guarantee that the product will be successful, unless there’s a real demand for an improved way to catch mice. And this is where the importance of market research comes into play.

If you need more proof, talk to the people who came up with the marketing plan for New Coke – that is, if you can find them. Let’s face it, we’d be hard-pressed to find any brand anywhere in the world with better or more durable consumer recognition than Coca-Cola. And yet, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, faced with a downturn in sales, the company made the marketing mistake of assuming that the taste of the drink was the problem.

Even though taste tests had confirmed that participants preferred the taste of New Coke, when presented with the reality of no longer having traditional Coke available anymore, consumers turned away from New Coke in droves. The company simply miscalculated the value of the emotional connection consumers had with the original product ­– a vital factor that didn’t show up in the taste tests. Ultimately, Coke salvaged the situation by reintroducing the traditional product as “Coke Classic,” and all was well.