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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Six Success Tips from Consumer Research:
One Size Does not Fit All

When Procter & Gamble acquired the Gillette Company in 2005, it acquired the rights to the state-of-the art Vector shaving system. Following Gillette's lead, P&G attempted to grow market share in India, according to the Boston Globe. Despite India's fast-growing population of 1.2 billion+, sales levels continued to disappoint P&G. P&G asked Indian students in the US to test Vector. While the students were enthusiastic, men in India were less enthusiastic about the razor. To find out why, P&G sent a team to India to observe 1,000 men shaving in their homes. Whether you sell to consumers or businesses, you can learn from P&G's experience in India.

Lessons Learned from the P&G Experience

  • Different segments have different needs, expectations and values. Gillette designed Vector to provide a clean/close shave, which is what American men want. P&G found that above all, Indian men want a safe, cut-free shave.
  • Different locations have different conditions and, therefore, different user requirements. P&G observed that Indian men shaving in their homes generally had just one cup of water and no mirror, making cuts more likely. In contrast, the Indian students in the US had hot and cold running water and mirrors. Travelers to third world countries come armed with antibiotics to use with severe intestinal upsets. Physicians must know which bacteria are prevalent in each region in order to prescribe the right antibiotic.
  • Different demographic groups have different characteristics and requirements. Thus, razor producers must provide products for people with coarse and fine hair. Traditionally, drug companies have only conducted clinical trials on men even though women, seniors, and children respond differently to medicines. Moreover, the suggested doses for many medications are suitable for adult males.Eventually, drug companies will test drugs on women, children, and seniors and provide the drugs in doses that are suitable for each segment.
  • Different people have different preferences. People who can't or won't swallow pills sometimes chew their pills. If a medicine lasts for 4-6 hours, the patient who chews pills receives a massive dose at first and a small or no dose at the end of the cycle. When possible, provide for people with different preferences and practices. Luckily, liquid versions are available for many drugs.
  • Testing products and services on family or co-workers could lead to misleading results. These people are predisposed to liking your offerings. Test new products and services on strangers who more closely resemble your target audience and who don't have preconceptions about your offering.
  • Price preferences vary. Americans pay $2.75 each for a Mach3 razor, a prohibitive price for most Indian men. The re-designed $0.72 Vector is more affordable for Indian men. Testing for price sensitivity is especially important when selling globally.

Failing to test long held assumptions can lead you to waste opportunities and money. It is especially important to test assumptions when selling products in third world countries.

What buyers need, want, and value affects the choices they make. Thus, marketers must have in-depth knowledge of the requirements and preferences of each segment they serve. This means that marketers should observe users in their own environments or alternatively, they should have in-depth conversations with them. The goal is to fully understand what customers and clients want and need; how they operate in their own setting, and what they need to operate in a more satisfactory way. Without this in-depth knowledge, companies will miss the mark.

We provide growing companies with actionable marketing insights.

© November, 2013

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