What's Eating Jdavies?

and other marketing stories

Product Substitution & Unexpected Usage


The Dailymail reports of 'four tiny orphaned hedgehogs are snuggling up to the bristles of a cleaning brush - because they think it's their mother'.

It's easy to imagine such animals have poor eyesight, or that they mistakenly think it's their mother due to the texture.

Relating this to customers however, and in my branding experience, I wonder how this process, which seems to me wreaking of product substitution could be exploited marketing-wise.

How much of any product is potentially a substitute for other products? While we could never easily predict whether the products we create will be used for exactly the same purposes we intended for it, it's an interesting insight to know that a process of substitution has happened before in marketing history: Listerine, for instance is not initially a mouthwash but a surgical antiseptic.

As wikipedia furthers:
It wasn't a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for "chronic halitosis", the faux medical term that the Listerine advertising group created in 1921 to describe bad breath. By naming and thus creating a medical condition for which consumers now felt they needed a cure, Listerine created a market for their mouthwash. Until that time, bad breath was not conventionally considered a catastrophe, but Listerine's ad campaign changed that. As the advertising scholar James B. Twitchell writes, "Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis."
As a marketer, having been busy ensuring current campaigns remain successful, I must admit I fail to seize this opportunity a lot of times: Do we have systems in place testing our current market for unexpected usage habits or metrics? While most companies will admit having an automated monitoring or reporting system in place for current project is a good thing (something most of us have), sometimes a simple pivot chart on raw data may reveal something new - precisely a gem that we just might miss.

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posted by Jdavies @ 8/28/2007,


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The Author


Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.

About This Blog

This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.


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