Harbingers of Failure

08 Sep 2015 | Research & Business Knowledge

Tim Harford, FT columnist,  reports on a new theory of 'harbingers of failure'.  If early adopters/ lead customers can predict new trends, then it makes sense that 'harbingers' can indicate which products are likely to fail.  These are people who like, and repeatedly buy, products that subsequently fail or are withdrawn from sale (notwithstanding the fact that assessment of 'failure' is relative!).  Having conducted some work on convenience store loyalty card data, management professors Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester and Catherine Tucker of the Kellogg School of Management have identied a suyb set of people who have an eclectic taste in products that others dislike.

An interesting idea for market research … and one that has already generated some debate within  the ICG. 

  • Surely it is down to the skill and confidence of marketing managers to 'listen' to and act on the research feedback.  How many times have we delivered bad news only for the company to plough ahead regardless?  And how does this link into the recent conversation about managing feedback internally? 
  • What is the definition of a flop?  Major companies may withdraw products becuase they are not successful enough (not necessarily because they are not successful) – either through competition, pricing or insufficient volume of sales (although the product may have been hugely liked by those who purchased it)

Read Tim's blog by clicking on the link to the right, as well as the original blog/ podcast on the Keellogg insight site, and watch out for the full paper, due to be published in IJMR shortly.