How Market Research Failed the Brands?

Market research indicated that consumers would never buy sony’s Walkman cassette player that didn’t have the capacity to record and users would be irritated by the use of earphones. The Walkman went on to sell 330 million units.

When Eureka Forbes launched its first vacuum cleaner in 1982, they hired a consultant to analyze the market for vacuum cleaners. After few days, the consultant submitted a report asking the company to shut shop, as no one will buy a Rs.3000 vacuum cleaner when brooms are available for Rs.3 apiece.

Pepsi was the preferred drink in all the blind tests and they exploited this research output by communicating over mass media. They could not increase their market shares.

After 10 years of research, 4 years of development, spending 250 million USD and year-long promotional teasers, Ford Launched “Edsel” car with much fanfare and the car was a spectacular flop, became a Failure Case Study.

The reasons why a market research fails are innumerable. Chief among them is the lack of “Empathy” and proper “Observational Research”. Let us look at other reasons why market research fails?


PEPSI, COKE and SIP TEST – In 1980s Pepsi ran a commercial “Pepsi Challenge” asking people to take “Blind Taste Sip Tests” – The results were astonishing – Many people preferred Pepsi than Coke. Pepsi exploited this results in their commercials. Coke though disputed Pepsi’s results, ran their own blind tests and was shocked to know that the results were same. Coke, went ahead, changed the secret formula, conducted more tests, got a lot of positive response from focus group tests and launched “New Coke”. There was outrage, massive protests for the “New Coke” and customers forced Coca-cola to bring the old coke. Why did “New Coke” fail? What was the problem with Sip Test?

Testers did not drink the entire can. They just took a sip, whereas normal customers drink a whole can. Users may prefer to drink a can of cola in their home, sitting and watching some sports game. People behave differently in their natural context than an artificial context. Tests were not conducted with the subjects in a natural environment.

In Sip tests, consumers will like the sweeter product and they would rate it high. Pepsi was sweeter than Coke. If you drink the whole can of Pepsi, the sweetness would be overpowering. So, Pepsi was designed to shine in Sip tests. Pepsi had citrusy flavor burst, which would dissipate over the course of the can.

Coca-Cola meant to be refreshing liquid – so less sweet – raisins vanilla flavor would remain over the course of the whole can, providing consistent taste. A normal user will not blindly buy a cola – The tests missed out the user’s associations, memories with the brand. The brand plays a major role. Pepsi even with those blind tests results could not become a market leader.


MAXWELL’S COFFEE HOUSE – In 1950s America was a nation hooked on coffee. Due to rising prices of Arabica Coffee Beans and their vulnerability to bad weather conditions, Maxwell Coffee House saw Robusta coffee seeds(Tastes poor) as a possible option, which is reliable, cheaper and they were plentiful. They decided to add a few robusta beans to existing coffee blend and ran sensory tests with their existing customers. The consumers tasted both maxwell’s coffee blend and Robusta mixed coffee. Nobody could find a difference. The company went ahead and launched the blend.

As time went by, to remain competitive, every year Maxwell continued to increase the Robusta level in the coffee blend and before launching, they did run sensory tests. Every time, consumers failed to tell the difference between the slightly increased levels of Robusta and the previous blend.

This fact-based approach helped Maxwell Coffee House to sell coffee and retain customers for some time. Sales boomed, Profits were healthy. Slowly, sales declined, though tests show long time coffee drinkers were happy with the product.

The problem was – Maxwell Coffee House was not attracting new generations of customers. A small addition of Robusta each year added up a lot of Robusta in the latest blends. If a consumer had been drinking coffee for years, and the change was subtle every time, he or she would feel the taste tolerable. Young people when they drank coffee with so much Robusta felt the bitterness and unpleasant. Their existing customers were comparing new blend with previous taste, whereas new customers or youngsters had a different benchmark.


HERMAN MILLER”S AERON CHAIR – Designers Bill Stumpf and Chadwick spent a lot of time in observing people working in offices and understood that the new chair should solve health problems(Back, neck, spinal), help them to perform various tasks – To provide the best comfort, simplify their life.

The Aeron Chair was a radical design – Highly engineered for ergonomic comfort – Posture-fit mechanism to help users to sit in various postures to do the particular task, easy to access, easy to use mechanisms without getting up from chair, mechanism to avoid back pain, to avoid shirt coming out of Pant, Stretchable thin soft material to avoid back sores.

When Herman Miller showed the Aeron Product to few focus groups for review – The results were shocking. People felt it was ugly. The product was called “The Chair of Death”. Facility managers and Ergonomic experts told that it was impossible to sell the “Aeron Chair” to corporate clients. Many suggested covering the chair with foam. But Herman Miller team went ahead, launched the product and it was a huge success. Why did market research showed that product would fail?

When users saw the product first time, they told they hated the product and it was ugly. We need to understand that this product was an unusual product and they had not seen anything like earlier. We need to understand the “Familiarity Bias” psychology of consumers. Their hate was misinterpreted – They might have meant that the product was unusual, which they were not used to it.

When consumers were asked to sit in chair and experience, they gave bad ratings initially – The reason – When consumers spend less time with the product, they get little experience which would not sufficient to judge the product. When Herman Miller asked people to use the product for a couple of days in their office, the results were overwhelming. Usage in the context, for a longer period – consumers were amazed at the experience of comfort and usability.

Regarding the chair’s aesthetics – Consumers were used to chairs with softer, thicker foam covered with fabric, cushioned, upholstered – Their existing mental models on aesthetics were different from what they saw in Aeron Chair. How could we value their response, when they were not familiar with the new design language?

References – Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Designing for Growth by Tim Ogilvie and Jeanne Liedtka, Ford Edsel Wikipedia, Richard, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet

Design for Selling a “Disruptive Product”

Herman Miller’s “Aeron” Chair was a disruptive product. Before Aeron’s launch, the chair market was a dull market, not many options, tough for anybody to differentiate between various cushy upholstered chairs. Designers/manufacturers listened carefully to buyers, users and made products more cushy, soft. On the contrast, the Aeron Chair looked differently, worked differently and priced differently.

Though the product was extremely comfortable, the initial market feedback showed a negative response for the product. The people termed the product ugly and hated it. One tabloid called the product “The Chair of Death”. But Herman Miller turned it around and made “Aeron” a “Design Classic”. How they made it?


Bill Stumpf, the Aeron Chair designer observed that the dot-com boom had brought a new working culture, a peculiar office environment – where people were forced to sit for longer hours. People were getting into a lot of health problems, back spasms, spinal injury, neck and hand pains – there was a drop in people’s performance, productivity – large scale insurance payouts for treating ailments – lawsuits.

After detailed research, Bill Stumpf felt that he needed to solve a problem of ergonomics, comfort rather than working on the aesthetic refinement of chairs.Bill Stumpf focused on providing the best comfort to his customers – Simplify the life of users – Designing a most imaginable ergonomic chair.

Promise a better life and not a better product to customers.


Positioning is to create an impression of our brand or product in a consumer’s mind. We need to provide a reference. Generally, consumers will remember instantly one or two brands/products in any category. Example- Pepsi and Coke in Cola category, Redbull, and Monster in Energy Drink category.

Since we need to enter into a consumer’s mind, Herman Miller created a new category for Aeron Chairs – Extremely Engineered Ergonomic Chairs for utmost comfort.


Documentum introduced Electronic Document Management System in 1993. To start with, the company targeted a niche – Regulatory affairs department in Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies(Where the User pain is high – They need to file a minimum of 250,000 to 500,000 documents). The product’s usage spread from Regulatory department to Research department as both the departments had frequent interactions. The Document management system penetrated to manufacturing floor from research department – From manufacturing floor to plant construction & maintenance – from plant maintenance to external vendors/contractors and then to Regulated chemicals – to non-regulated chemicals & Oil refineries and then to Oil exploration & production – IT department – to properties – to Wallstreet -to swaps and derivative business.

Similarly, Herman Miller had a tough time to sell the product, as common customers complained about the weird looks. Tabloids called the product is “Chair of Death”. People did not appreciate the extreme engineering. So, Herman Miller focussed on Designers and Architects. They were very open to the radical design. Being designers themselves, they appreciated the user-centric approach and the functional aesthetics. The product got “Design of the Decade” award from IDSA which further helped to spread the word.

The company then targeted similar segment of people in various fields – The product’s usage spread from design field to pop culture which promoted the product further – then to Entertainment Industry – Hollywood picked it up – People working on special effects were using the product – TV shows, films – Disney got interested – then to adventurous people – new age CEOs of new digital startup companies – then spread to offices.


We have got to start with customer experience and work backward to technology – Steve Jobs.

The Aeron chair was extremely engineered for great comfort, simplify the life of the user, provide healthy life, increase productivity, keep them fresh.

Biomorphic form to fit human body curvature, Hinge design to make seat pan and back move independently, elbow supports, breathable fabric to create even heat distribution and avoid bedsores ate the back, seat pan edge designed to avoid pressures on legs, design to reduce spine compression, back pain, Controls which are easy to use and easy to access even for elderly, wider support for shoulders, even weight distribution and reduction of body stresses, support users to shift positions and postures easily and so on.

An invention becomes meaningful when it provides a new meaning to consumer’s life.


The facility managers, ergonomic experts, common users have vehemently opposed the mesh, visibility of exoskeleton structure, mechanisms in the chair, though they appreciated the functionality of Aeron Chair. Many of them suggested to cover the Aeron with solid fabric and warned Herman Miller that it would be impossible to sell to corporate clients without solid fabric. But Herman Miller believed their team’s problem-solving methodologies.


Design for Observability – Aeron chair had a contrasting look than other contemporary chairs – Slender model, stretched fibers, appearance like an exoskeleton structure, Black molded plastic, mechanisms that were clearly visible, but neatly done, a robotic feel to provide a feel of top notch engineered product.

People could take note of the product wherever they see. The wider support for shoulders necessitated top of the chair is wider than at the bottom – creating a bigger impression among all other contemporary chairs – visually simulating a human being body.

One vendor placed a sample of Aeron chair in front of the roadside window and he could hear screeching halt of cars.

The weird looks were becoming a major selling point and forcing people to have a look at the product. The brochures showed how product supported various postures and how people were comfortable in those postures.

People wondered whether the thin frame could hold their weight – tentative about sitting on the chair – Thin frames with a broader back provided a cognitive visual imbalance in the mind.

Maximum support for shoulders – top of the chair was broader than the bottom – completely different from other competitors and visually resembling a human body.

Design for persuasion – The product was designed in such a way to remove any uncertainties in user’s mind.

  • The brochures/communications carried “How to Use the various controls” explained in an easier way to make people aware of it.
  • Herman Miller team communicated “Principles Knowledge” – The reasons behind the design of each and every feature – How the new design could solve potential health problems – The pains it would help a user to avoid – how those movements help in reducing back stress, spinal compression, pains in legs, elbows, neck.
  • The controls were positioned in a way – easy to access, easy to relate to the movement, easy to use – it was easy for people to figure about the controls and understand how to use the product.
  • The back stretchable material texture was designed to provide intimate comfort for the user and the consumer could feel the same when he uses the chair.
  • They worked on critical touch points of customer – The elbow rests and the Seat edge pads were specially designed to provide comfort, smooth texture and reduce pressure on legs and stress of elbows.
  • Herman Miller team got testimonials of early adopters-customers who used products for some time, some scientific data of Aeron chair, problems with the existing chair, data on potential health hazards, Aeron chair’s kinematics, Posture-fit advantages, Breathable material and communicated it to potential customers.
  • Breathability – Users could feel that air can flow through the pores in the Pellicle material stretched over the frame and was surprised by the material’s comfort.
  • Their brochures carried images of how to use the product and how the product supported wide range of postures (Posture-fit was a strong point of Aeron Chair)

Design for Trialability – People got limited experience with the product when they could spend a small amount of time and that was not enough to judge the product. Negative reviews may start pouring in. Herman Miller asked people to use the product for a longer time – Their reactions, in most cases, changed – They were amazed that it could be so comfortable, without all the traditional upholstery and foam. It was an ultimate comfort machine. Looking at thin frames, the users had a fear whether the product would hold the weight, but they were pleasantly surprised when they used the product.

Design for Sustainable Environment – Environment Sustainability was just catching up in those circles. When Bill Stumpf stressed on removing the molded foam completely from the chair, the other executives could understand that it would help in environmental sustainability and help in bottom line too. The executives and the workers were tired of the smell from hanging foam(Kept for curing) in the chair manufacturing plant. They were worried about the large-scale impact of foam if the company needed to scale its production. Herman Miller used recyclable materials, got environmental certifications, which further increased the value of the product.

Design for Social Status – The middle and upper middle class exhibited a stronger concern for Social Status. There were a strong desire and craving for a social identity. The chair became a fashionable statement for consumers.

Seth Godin, after getting his first venture check, went and bought more than a dozen Aeron chairs that got him into front page of wall street journal

Buying an Aeron’s chair sent a message to the public about who you are.

Design for compatibility – The chair resembled a human body form with broad shoulders and smaller hip – visually informed that it would suit the human body. The mesh being porous helped the chair to merge with the interiors of the offices. Design team’s high degree of empathy assured that the product met the essential needs of the users.

Design for customization – Traditional chair manufacturers were designing Single sized chairs, with ergonomics being focused on 50th percentile users. Those chairs had many adjustable parts to accommodate the various body types. With an in-depth research, Aeron design team came out with 3 sizes of chairs and it covered 2.5 percentile female to 97.5 percentile males. This simplified life of many people. Many adjustment mechanisms allow its user to customize the chair to suit the particular task at hand as well as specific body heights and weights.

References: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Creating Breakthrough Products by Jonathan Cagan, Purple Cow by Seth Godin, The untold story of Aeron-article from the fast company, What great brands do by Denise Lee, Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christenson, Designing for Growth – Tim Ogilvie, Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.

How Design Thinking Transformed A Normal Office Chair into a Remarkable One

Herman Miller’s Aeron was a disruptive product. Before Aeron’s launch, the chair market was a dull market, not many options, tough for anybody to differentiate between various cushy upholstered chairs. Designers/manufacturers listened carefully to buyers, users and made products more cushy, soft. On the contrast, the Aeron Chair looked differently, worked differently and priced differently.


For disruptive innovation, focusing on next generation of customers, and non-customers are important.

Clayton Christensen says, “Best firms succeeded because they listened responsibly to customers, invested aggressively in technology, manufacturing abilities, designed wonderful products to meet the next generation needs. Same best firms failed after some time, because they listened to SAME customers, invested again, designed again to meet next generation needs”

The dot-com boom had brought a new working culture, a peculiar office environment – where people were forced to sit for longer hours. People were getting into a lot of health problems, back spasms, spinal injury, neck and hand pains – there was a drop in people’s performance, productivity – large scale insurance payouts for treating ailments – lawsuits. Herman Miller saw there was an untapped market in office furniture category. The company called Bill Stumpf and Chadwick to design the new chairs.


As it is said, “The first thing in designing a product is “To See Things Clearly” than “Think Things Clearly”. It was important to have a blank mind, observe users, environment.

Bill Stumpf, being a son of Gerontology Nurse was already a keen observer of Human Behaviour. He had experience in designing chairs for Elderly. Most of the ergonomically designed products meant for elderly would work effectively for everyone else. Bill Stumpf had observed how elderly people with their weakened legs, hands struggle to use La-z-Boys recliners, how the controls were in awkward positions, how the fleshy soft cushions were creating bed sores, how they struggle due to uneven weight distribution.

Bill Stumpf could relate the same problems with the office chair users as they too spend a considerable amount of time sitting in one place. Moreover, he could see that people were using keyboards on lap, over the table – Users were using chairs in multiple angles. The same chairs needed to be used for meetings, where people needed to stand often. He could see people struggle to support their elbows, heat transfer from the body, spinal injuries and so on.


A client hires a designer to find a solution for his problem and not to implement his solution.

After detailed research, Bill Stumpf felt that he needed to solve a problem of ergonomics, comfort rather than working on the aesthetic refinement of chairs. He convinced Herman Miller’s management team to tread on an unknown new path to be a market leader. He and Chadwick set on a path to solve the problem of office seating.

Promise a better life and not a better product to customers.

Bill Stumpf focused on providing the best comfort to his customers – Simplify the life of users – Designing a most imaginable ergonomic chair.


Instead of “Inside Out” approach, Designers take “Outside-In” approach, as we could see that Bill Stumpf started with Understanding the problems of users.

  • Bill Stumpf, “Human form is a biomorphic- Curved form, there are no straight lines. The chair has to support this curvy form – a molded flexible part which could take the shape fo MES’s Biomorphism design.

(Image Source – Creating Breakthrough products by Jonathan Cagan)

  • Traditional chair manufacturers were designing Single sized chairs, with ergonomics being focused on 50th percentile users. Those chairs had many adjustable parts to accommodate the various body types. With an in-depth research, Aeron design team came out with 3 sizes of chairs and it covered 2.5 percentile female to 97.5 percentile males. This simplified life of many people.

(Image Source – Creating Breakthrough products by Jonathan Cagan)

  • The seating mechanisms were designed to ease users in shifting their positions or shifting their postures to perform various tasks.
  • Designed a new Hinge Mechanism to provide independent movements for seat pan and back of the chair to reduce undue stress on the back and support multiple angles. Can you believe that Bill Stumpf tried to design a hinge to avoid shirt coming out of the pants?
  • Maximum support for shoulders – Wider at the top than at the bottom – This was opposite to what was common among other types of furniture.
  • Adjustable armrests for elbow supports – for better support, fixed to back rather than the bottom of the seat pan – Even elderly could use it.
  • Seat pan edges were designed to reduce pressure and space below the seat pan were designed for consumers to fold the legs often under the seat – A notable observation came from designing for an elderly segment.
  • Avoiding Bedsores – Bill Stumpf believed that Skin is a breathing organ and he hated those chairs covered in fabric, which were hot and sticky under continuous use. Along with one of the vendors, the design team came out with a new breathable material that could help in distribution of heat – People could maintain even heat both at the front and back.
  • The team further designed frame in such a way that weight could be transferred smoothly from the mesh to the solid frame, thereby avoiding the formation of pressure on body or legs.
  • Controls were positioned for easy access and designed for easy to control – Usable and Useful Controls. Earlier chairs – to adjust the settings, you need to get out of their chair. Herman Miller changed this.
  • The chair was designed to reduce the spinal compression, allow kinesthetic motion, the optimal ergonomic positioning of elbows to reduce Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • The design team wanted the chair to be light weight and appear lighter. The design has to appear simpler and show that the product is extremely engineered for comfort. – The inspiration was “Thonet” chair.

The final design was slender. People would see all the mechanisms. Stretchable material with pores was an unimaginable solution for consumers. It was counter to consumer’s thoughts, expectations.


The final product appeared like a pre-historic exoskeleton insect. Nevertheless, the product made people note. One vendor kept the chair sample near one of the roadside windows and he could hear screeching halt of car tires. The chair’s weird looks became a great selling point. People who used continuously for a longer period realized the benefits of bodily comfort and the word spread.

References: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Creating Breakthrough Products by Jonathan Cagan, Purple Cow by Seth Godin, The untold story of Aeron-article from the fast company, What great brands do by Denise Lee, Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christenson, Designing for Growth – Tim Ogilvie.

Business/Design Lessons from “New Coke” Brand Failure

Coke had been a dominant soft drink for a very long time. In 1980s Coke’s flagship product’s share was on the decline and Pepsi’s shares were on the rise. Despite huge spends on the advertisement, wide availability of vending machines, global presence, deeper network of sellers, competitive pricing, Coke’s market share was slowly slipping away.

Pepsi drove another wedge in the coke’s shares by announcing a commercial called “Pepsi Challenge” – Pepsi conducted blind tests of cola drinks – To everyone’s surprise, consumers preferred Pepsi in the blind test. Pepsico was marching ahead with the renewed vigor by making use of those blind test results.

Though Coke disputed Pepsi’s findings, it went ahead and did its own blind tests. It was shocking to know that people preferred Pepsi in blind tests than the famous Coca-Cola’s century old secret formula. Coke felt that the audience has changed the way of quenching the thirst and the time had come to change the long-held formula of secret taste.

Scientists fiddled with the formula, made it sweeter like Pepsi. The made new coke – Smoother than earlier Coke, Sweeter than earlier Coke, Less harsh than earlier coke. Coke’s market researchers noticed massive improvements in blind tests of new Coke conducted with thousands of consumers. It appeared that the “New Coke” would create a sensation and improve its market share. Coca-Cola’s CEO announced, “The Surest move the company made”. They launched the product with much fanfare.

The results were disastrous for the company. As soon as taste change was announced, many panicked customers went, bought so much coke and stocked their basements and empty rooms. After so many blind tests and focus group tests, the company did not expect such a backlash. Coca-cola faced massive protests and outrage at all its promotional events. Protestors shouted “We want the real thing”

“Our children will not know the meaning of Refreshment”

Coco-cola company was finally forced to bring the coke with original formula with the name “Classic Coke”. What lessons could we take from this failure?


Benchmarking your competitor, their products, behavior, and strategy are a distraction and it is noise – They are not proper market signals. To get proper market signals, we need to look at users/consumers.

If you are trying to incorporate everything that your competitor does, then you won’t be doing what he is not doing.

Coke fell into the trap of Pepsi’ marketing tactic and started to develop a product which was sweeter like Pepsi and thereby losing its uniqueness.

Cadbury’s Chief Strategy officer Todd Stitzer(Who later became CEO) once asked his teammates

Look for a Strategy to grow the market rather than just the company’s market share. If I ask you to increase our market share, you will look at our competitors, and we may not succeed.

Coke exactly looked at the competitor and followed blindly this time.

Pepsi had been targeting “Youth Market” whereas the Coke had a wider reach with middle age and older age target segments. Coke completely lost focus on their major target segments. Though for any business to survive, we need to target next generation of customers – but this was not the way to do.


In focus group tests, everyone agreed that new coke was tasting good, sweeter and smoother. Many had expressed their willingness to buy the new coke. Then how did New Coke fail in the real market scenarios?

To understand this, we need to look at how consumers make decisions – We think we are rational decision makers, but our decisions are controlled by the intuitive mind(Emotional mind) rather than the rational mind. They are more influenced by heart than logic.

Our decisions are based on how products make us feel, what identity the brand makes me experience and express, and to whom we are dealing with – all are of emotional feelings.

Most of the marketing programs are targeted at the conscious rational minds rather than speaking to the unconscious mind(Real desires, attitudes, behaviors, and motivations).

When you see a brand, our sub-conscious mind immediately fires up learned cultural associations, memories, habits associated with the brand in our brain, and we act according to those thoughts. In the real world, we do not buy a cola blindly. The Coke brand reminds us many deeper associations formed over a long period of time. It is an instantly recognizable, well-appreciated brand.

The Coke market researchers did not measure intuitive, non-descriptive, associative memories/emotions that lie deep in our brain and anchored to the brand name “Coke”.

The consumer’s rational mind may not know exactly why they like a particular product. In focus groups, due to the new environment, thought of being observed by somebody on the back of mind, the presence of other unknown users, chances of being embarrassed makes rational mind active than the subconscious mind. In those focus groups – the consumers mostly rationalize their thoughts and make up their own logical reasoning to justify any of their activities. Most of their feelings were connected to the subconscious mind. So the results of focus group would not be a right measure to know the new product’s success.

In one the tests conducted through FMRI machines, when the consumer was aware of the coke brand before consuming, pleasure centers in the brain were activated indicating a huge effect of coke label.


The research method has to understand the inner subconscious mind than the rational mind to forecast a product’s success or failure. To understand the inner self of consumer – you may need to observe body language, eye reactions, look for linguistic hints, micro facial expressions, behavioral inconsistencies and analyze how they respond to their choices of preferring Pepsi or Coke.

To observe the users, the ideal conditions would be to keep the users in natural context rather than the artificial context. How about asking consumers to take cans of Coke to home and use them, drink a whole beverage while watching cricket or some other sports? That’s the way the consumers had been using the product. That was the real context. Coco-cola should have tested the new product in real context and looked for real observations. Coke was a refresher product for consumers and they were not expecting it to be sweeter.

Consumers wanted to feel good rather needing more sweet in the drink. (Coke focussed on new sweet taste)


In blind tests, the tasters would not drink the whole can. They just take a sip to test. Did any real consumer take a sip and give the container back? No. Pepsi is a sweeter product than coke(Meant to refresh people – so less sweet) – So, Pepsi right away had a big advantage in Sip tests, as people would feel it tasting good. But when consumers drink a whole can of sweetness, it would be overpowering and some could feel dizzy. In the words of Malcolm Gladwell, “Pepsi is designed to shine in Sip Tests”. Coke feels good when you drink as a whole can.


Drinking coke had become a habit – it was a subconscious activity. As long as it remained subconscious, the brand would face no difficulties. It was not easy for any competitor to break a habitual product.

If you are bringing out a product that is completely different from existing consumer’s mental models and affect consumer’s habitual behavior, then the subconscious mind elevates the problem to the rational mind. If your rational mind interferes – your selling cycle starts new. In the case of breaking a habit, you need to face the negative implications too. Coke earlier made changes in the secret formula – sugar to corn syrup, but never communicated – They did not force the change issue into rational minds and people continued to buy the product.

There would be huge resistance if you try to break a habit.

References: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Habit by Neale Martin, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet

If You Are Struggling With Loss of Confidence in Yourself, Remember ….

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • Salvador Dali -The famous Surrealist painter. Other than being a painter, he was a writer- Three non-fiction books and a novel “Hidden Faces”, he had produced performance arts, he designed furnitures-Sofa of Mae West’s lips was a design classic – as a filmmaker, he created Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or, he designed intricate jewellery, designed buildings as an architect – house in Port Lligat, Teatro Museo in Figueres, he designed theatre sets, clothes, textiles, perfume bottles, packaging, logos. He believed that although everyone is born with incredible imagination, intuition and intelligence, we were trained to limit our abilities and not to use our skills. Salvador Dali had his failures, but enough worked for him to get a name. It is important to keep working, having fun and limiting the rules which affect our freedom of thoughts.

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • French Designer Coco Chanel – The luxury women’s wear at that time forced women to be uncomfortable to look fashionable. She felt that ‘Luxury should be comfortable to wear’ – She was heavily attacked by the fashion press, but she kept moving. People laughed at the way she dressed – She was looking different from anybody else. She made the most of her uniqueness, originality. Be Original.

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • Actor Robert De Niro – After so many audition failures, he realized that it was no good waiting for people to give him an opportunity. When he read a book “raging Bull”, he felt that the book could be turned into a film. He practiced acting as the lead hero of that story. He carried the book wherever possible, showed it to people and enacted scenes from the book. After weeks of persuasion, he got a producer and then director Martin Scorsese came on board – Raging Bull became one of the most critically acclaimed films, De Niro won the Academy award for Best Actor. Don’t be at the mercy of others. Be proactive, look around, learn new knowledge and generate the opportunities. 

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • Beatles – They were not an overnight sensation. They had been playing together for so many years – seven days a week, till 2 Am in the morning- worked so hard to attract the audience – They were addicted to practising – When every other band was playing classic songs, practising to sound like originals -Beatles were experimenting, improvising and making their own standards. They were practicing to become more like Beatles and less like everyone else. They worked harder and harder, improved every day a little bit – an imaginative improvement. Practice, Work hard, Be Imaginative, Be slightly better than yesterday, Practise, Compare yesterday’s yourself, practice.

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • Paulo Coelho – He wanted to become a writer, but his parents were against this, wanted him to be a lawyer and thought he was turning mad. He was held thrice in mental institutions. He was subjected to electric shock treatments. He never compromised. He went on to become a world-renowned author through “The Alchemist”. If you believe in yourself, do not compromise and live up to your expectations. Every one of us will face pressure from our family, friends, employers, employees and the society. Those who compromises never grow big. We may fail, but we would be happy that we tried and did our best.

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • Georgia O’Keeffe, Famous American artist, called “Mother of American Modernism” – She was famous for her paintings of large flowers, New York Skyscrapers, New Mexico Landscapes. She started to gain attention only at the age of fifty and her fame grew gradually in her sixties and seventies. He most important exhibition came when she was in her eighties. She was younger in mind, enthusiasm never reduced. With age, we experience more, mature more, gain more insights, grasp deeper knowledge, have diverse perceptions – Do not worry about the delay in success, or worry about getting aged. Every day, we are learning something new, experiencing something new – They all are going to help us in future. Keep working, Practising, Innovating.

If you are struggling with loss of confidence in yourself, remember

  • James Dyson-Inventor and manufacturer of the first bagless vacuum cleaner. He worked for 5 years, made around 5000 prototypes, tested them and finally produced a successful model. When he showed it to other manufacturers, none of them was ready to manufacture and discouraged him further from going ahead with the idea. With the lack of funds, Dyson was stuck. Eventually, he sold his idea to a manufacturer in japan and it became a commercial success. After a couple of years, he opened a manufacturing plant in Britain and his brand soon became a leading brand. It is easier to get frustrated, feel angry, disappointed and fall into a negativity trap when things did not go as expected. It may be hard but we need to learn to put everything aside, adopt a positive attitude and focus on everyday tasks to achieve the result.

References: Content based on Rod Judkins “The Art of Creative Thinking”

Single Colour or Multi Colour for Brand Logos?

Great brands should own a color in a consumer’s mind in their category.

Can you recall the colors of FedEx in an instant- Purple and ……Can you recall UPS color – Brown and ….. As a user, it is easier to recall a color of a brand if it is of a single color. Sometimes, tough to recollect the second color.

Mcdonalds owns Yellow color in its category. Which color does Burger King own?

Can you recall the colors of Shell petroleum – Red and ….., Hindustan Petroleum – Dark Blue and …., Indian Oil – Orange and ….., Bharat Petroleum – Yellow and …

Pepsi(Can you recollect the colors?) and Coca-cola

Does multi-color help in brand extensions – No it complicates. Look at FedEx – How could people remember the color or recognize the services?

Let us look at some of the single color brands below (Except Instagram)

Some more single color brands – Disney, Starbucks, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Cadbury, CVS, Crunchbase, DeWalt, ESPN, HP, IKEA, Economic Times and so on.

STARBUCKS owns the above green color in consumer’s mind in the coffee category.

Apple’s “White” logo makes it easy to identify the apple products even at a distance.

Single color in the logo – makes it easier to transfer the logo to various mediums.

Single color – Easier for brand extensions (Though Virgin is not a good example)

Single colors grab attention better than multi-color brands when viewed from a longer distance, helps to stand out from the crowd – Example, Mcdonalds Vs Burger King.

Avoid colors that conflict with the brand name – Cognitive Dissonance for users. Pinkberry in green color.

Even if we need to use more than one color, we should make sure that one color is prominent and different from competitors.

References:: Content from Visual Hammer by Laura Ries

How Did LinkedIn Motivate you to Share Your Information?

It was a cold winter night. Arab was resting in his tent and camel peeped into the tent and asked him, “Master, it is very cold outside the tent where I am standing. Can I put my nose alone inside the tent?”

Arab allowed the camel to put its nose. After some time, Camel, “Master, Can I put my neck inside the tent?” Arab accepted the request.

A few minutes later, Camel asked again, “Master, It is getting colder. Can I put my forelegs within the tent, as it would occupy only a little extra space?” Arab agreed to the request.

After some time, the camel asked again “Master, my hind legs are getting stiff. I’m afraid that I may not be able to walk tomorrow if I could not keep it warm as like my other body parts?” Arab nodded to keep the hind legs inside the tent.

Once camel is completely inside the tent, Arab had no space to remain in the tent and he had to move out. This is an old Arab folktale.

Yes, brands, like camel request you to provide a small amount of information initially. Then they gradually ask us to provide more details in steps and finally, they have all our information.

Break into small steps, make the first step easier to do, then slowly increase the complexity in subsequent steps and importantly, show the progress to the user.

Let’s see “LinkedIn”. When you sign up LinkedIn first time, you would receive a mail Congratulating that your profile completeness was 25%. Then they would motivate you to reach 40% of profile completeness by adding one more detail(A simple job to do). Once you finish the required detail, you get another prompt to add another comparably difficult job to reach 80% and slowly you were guided to furnish all the details.

(Image and Content Source:: Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen P Anderson)

Designing a Hoax – How they do?

“Wi-Fi Signals are bad for health. We should try to reduce the usage. Do you know that in one experiment, wifi radiation had stopped plant growth – Mutation….”

She was a medical professional and was talking about in medical terms how an experiment showed that wireless signals stopped plant growth. I looked at her, narrowing my eyes with an intention to listen more. She understood and went on to explain in detail about the experiment conducted by Danish School Students. The details provided by her exactly matched the conditions what you could term as a hoax news or fake news or an event to bias validation (Scientifically unproven evidence).

A few days back, I came across a message about problems with a potted house plant, – the plant is so poisonous that death can occur – in less than a minute for children and in 15 minutes for adults.

Another message – Raw ONION on the bottom of the feet to take away illness.

The list goes on – Energy Drink Having Bull Sperm

Is there any template to design a successful hoax, fake news, absurd tales? Many books have given enough information to help us in designing a successful hoax content or identifying a successful hoax/content. These contents are designed in such a way to go viral without much effort from the creators. What could we learn from them?


Yes, surprisingly hoax/rumor creators are clear and have a good understanding of their target segment. The segment is based on the education level, knowledge exposure and so on. They understand the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their chosen target segment. They focus on people who desire for social approval, focus on people who prefer to share their thoughts, opinions, experiences. The creators focus their content on meeting the requirements of those segments.


For the message to spread – target a belief. We all have different beliefs. Due to confirmation bias, we accept, interpret, favor information which confirms our preexisting beliefs and ignores the rest. Any content targeting the belief is easy to spread – Many believe that mobile signals are bad for the health-Easy target, Natural medicines or natural treatment is healthy.


The content has to first attract the customers – so, the Subject you choose should be important. The subject’s main message should violate people’s expectations – it should be unusual, surprising, extraordinary, worthy of notice. For interruption – You need to target some of their everyday activities/products/frequent behaviors.The wireless signals research project by 9th-grade girl(Unusual) students, Harmless house plant(shock) turning poisonous, Onions removing illness(Surprise).


Most of the content targets only one message – They are very clear. They use simpler language to communicate. 3-5 words in the main sentence so that the message could be nailed in mind. They do not combine two or more messages in one content. EM radiations are dangerous, Onions are good for treating the illness, Energy drinks with a bull sperm, Machupo virus in paracetamol.


Your main message could gain attraction by being novel. You need to keep him interested and make him go through the content so that he could pass the information.

Option 01 – Provide more details in the content –

For wireless signals experiment – details of the vessels, materials used, type of sprouts used, type of water, temperature and lighting conditions, days of monitoring, everyday updates on weight.

“Onions are known to absorb toxins. In fact, during the days of the Plague in England, folks would keep chopped onions around to absorb toxins and clean the air. This helped protect them, against getting the plague.

Onions will absorb all the toxins in the air of your refrigerator. Chop your leftover onion, put it on a plate and keep it in your kitchen as a natural air purifier. Onions are toxic absorbers. Thus why they are great internal mops for the body.

Option 02 – Knowledge Gap – To build interest, you need to make him curious – To make him curious, you need to make him aware that he lacks certain knowledge – Did you check the below message on Onion – Transdermal Delivery, anti-microbial.

The onion and garlic families are anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Placing them on the bottom of the foot gives them access to your internal organs through meridians in your body. The onion can be directly delivered. Transdermal delivery (on the skin) is one of the best delivery mechanisms, as it will bypass the stomach acids and go directly into the blood. The bottom of the feet and the forearm are great places to put high-powered foods and essential oils into the body. Sliced garlic on the bottom of the feet will work nicely too.”


NASA, Belgium Research foundation, Center for Diseases, Dr.Ola Bakthraman – Yes, you could use some “Authority Bias” – Testimonials. Selection of Source(Expert) and Location play a major role in making people believe and spread the message.

In wireless signals article – “The experiment secured the girls the finals in the competition “Young Scientists”, but it was only the beginning. Renowned scientists from England, Holland, and Sweden have since shown great interest in the girls’ project so far”.

An email -“Shipments of bananas from Costa Rica were infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria. The skin infection from necrotizing fasciitis is very painful and eats 2-3 cms of flesh per hour. Amputation is likely, death is possible. FDA was reluctant to issue a global warning, fearing a nationwide panic – The message is from Manheim Research Institute

SLOW DANCE SPAM- Dr. Dennis Shields, Professor, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York 10461


Stories draw us into the user’s world and we instantly empathize. Stories with an emotional element drive the content in top gear.

MONEY PLANT – “I almost lost my daughter who put a piece of the leaf of this plant in her mouth and her tongue swelled to the point of suffocation. This is one plant but there are others with the same characteristics of coloring. Those are also poisonous and we should get rid of them. Please watch out for our children. As we all leave our children home in the hands of the helpers, we should give them a safe environment where they can play.”

TIM HORTON’S SHOCKER – “A man from Arkansas came up to Canada for a visit only to find himself in the hospital after a couple of days. Doctor’s told him that he had suffered from cardiac arrest. He was allergic to Nicotine. The man did not understand why that would have happened as he does not smoke knowing full well he was allergic to Nicotine. He told the doctor that he had not done anything differently while he was on vacation other than having Tim Horton’s coffee. – The man then went back to Tim Horton’s and asked what was in their coffee. – Tim Horton’s refuses to divulge that information. After threatening legal action, Tim Horton’s finally admitted….”

ALDI Car Scam – “I was approached yesterday afternoon around 3:30 pm in my local Aldi car park by two males, asking what kind of perfume I was wearing. Then they asked if I’d like to sample some fabulous scent they were willing to sell me at a very reasonable Price. I probably would have agreed had I not received an email a couple of days ago, warning of a “wanna smell this gorgeous perfume?” scam.THIS IS NOT PERFUME – IT IS ‘ETHER’ (A POWERFUL DRUG!)!”

SLOW DANCE – “I don’t normally send these on….but this one brought a lump to my throat…..This is a poem written by a teenager with cancer. his young girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a letter telling everyone to live their life to the fullest, since she never will. — She’ll never make it to prom, graduate from high school, or get married and have a family of her own”

References: Contagious by Jonah Berger, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet,