APES, PARROTS, LEMMINGS and MARKETING
There is a learning principle that appears to hold for all creatures. It seems to be nearly as true for humans as it is for apes, parrots and lemmings. This most popular method for learning is the practice of mimicking others of our ilk. When reading of Michelangelo or Edison or Picasso we like to compliment ourselves for being related to such creative history makers and yes, we all have a story describing a moment in our personal histories demonstrating our own particular genius for solving problems and contributing to the overall good of us all.
But we still prefer to make our choices by acknowledging and repeating the claimed successes of friends, family and perhaps the promise of a degree of fame.
As marketers, it is left to us to overcome buyer’s resistance to new products; we do this by using the information gathered by the social scientists among us and adjust our market plans accordingly. We then must overcome unforeseen problems as soon as possible after the product reaches a predetermined saturation point.
Shortly after WW II, the electric blanket was introduced. Instantly popular, the product was an immediate success. However, when an unseasonably cold winter set in, complaints started coming back that these electric blankets were not providing enough warmth. Millions of dollars and trillions of words pursued a re-education program of how to properly use the electric blanket.
Heat rises and therefore maximum comfort would not be achieved if snuggling beneath the blanket; it must go under the bottom sheet. The habit of blanket-use acquired over centuries, resisted all attempts to refine the images supported by words and concepts like “snuggle” and “comfy”. Going to bed was for most Americans a ritual with strong expectations of release from a day of struggle and stress.
Eventually, it occurred to someone to give the electric blanket a new name. Soon it was being marketed as a mattress pad. That was nearly two decades ago. Googling nomenclature for both products quickly reveals that there are to this very day, five times as many listings for the tag “electric blanket” as for “electric mattress pad”.