Why Do Designers Generate Multiple Options For a Problem? What Could You Learn From Them?

In 1983, William Smithburg, CEO of Quaker acquired Gatorade for $220 million. It was touted as an impulsive purchase. Quaker grew the brand value to $3 billion. In 1994, Smithsburg bought another beverage brand, Snapple, for $1.8 billion. Due to Gatorade’s grand success, none of the board members opposed or protested this acquisition. Smithburg acquired Snapple because of his vivid memories of Gatorade’s success and thought they could succeed with Quaker’s marketing and management skills.

‘Snapple’ was a different product from ‘Gatorade -It had an unfamiliar target segment, demanded unique approaches in terms of branding, manufacturing, and distribution, which Quaker failed to manage and ended up destroying the brand value. A few years later, Snapple was sold off to Triarc Corporation for $300 million. Does Success blind them? Though media, outside experts touted this as one of the worst acquisitions in business history, why none from inside the company argued against the acquisition. A KPMG study of 700 mergers and acquisitions saw that 83% failed to boost shareholder value.

Jurgen Schrempp, CEO of Daimler-Benz, led the merger of Chrysler and Daimler against stiff opposition. Nine years later, Daimler was forced to give Chrysler away.

Both the CEOs were highly qualified, experienced for their jobs, and yet they made decisions To move forward in business or in life, we need to make decisions for our problems – Be it overhaul of company’s pricing structure, substantial investment in one manufacturing site, global or local manufacturing, Outsourcing or in-house, type of value proposition for the product or to whom we should love, marry- whom to hang out with, what car to buy, should I join this company or that company, should I eat at Subway or McDonalds or A2B.

Designer’s profession is to solve the problem, and they are trained to generate multiple solutions for solving a problem. The first thing taught to them is not to rush to judge and trust their first solution. They understand that any problem could have multiple solutions, willing to go for “wider” options, approaches and look for unexpected solutions, before converging on worthy ideas. Each and Every solution need to be meaningfully distinct from each other. Designers are encouraged to dig deeper to unearth solutions.

Most of the business of life decisions failed when there is only one option to choose. David Nutt, a British Psychiatrist analyzed decisions made by businesses. Businesses which made decisions based on only a single option had a 52% failure rate and decisions based on multiple options had 32% failure rate.

In 2006, Colgate wanted to launch a disposable mini toothbrush, approached a design studio for a product name. This toothbrush did not need any mouth rinsing and therefore could be used inside a cab, aircraft. The smaller size of the brush was so prominent that branding team was mentally locked to generate names related to tiny, smallness, brush – Petite Brush, Mini-brush, Brush-let. The design team started to venture into different directions to generate names other than focusing on small, tiny – One direction was the “beauty” -the oral care – Better Looking white teeth and a pleasant smile. One of the biggest advantages of the toothbrush – No need to spit out, no big mass of minty lather or foam(A strong feature) – Lightness, Cleanliness, Softness. The design team started looking for metaphors, sounds, words that could communicate Lightness. Out of the long list of words emerged “WISP” – Which means a small, thin, a twisted bunch(Wisp of rising smoke) representing lightness. The first option they got were related to size and brush. Multiple options broke the thinking mold and liberated the ideas.


One of the reasons why a designer is required to generate more than one idea – Prevent falling in love with a single idea and to avoid cognitive bias.

When only one idea/single option is there – We spend most of the time to make it work rather than exploring any other better option. We intend to find a way to get the team like the concept rather than exploring other ways to solve the problem.

When only one option is there – We become passionate about the solution, stand firm against disagreements, look for information to support our solution(Confirmation Bias) and exaggerate the benefits. Once confirmation bias sets in, our ability to pay attention to opposing arguments will be restricted and we will no more hold the balanced view. We would unconsciously withhold relevant information that conflicts with our solution idea.

Once you get attached to your solution, any disagreements would be viewed as a personal criticism and you would react weirdly, spoiling the relationship, future cooperation of the team affecting implementation of the idea.

A single option would further stifle innovation, affect team spirit, discourage others from suggesting or sharing their ideas – Would be detrimental to business in long run.

To disrupt a market, you need to go beyond most obvious solution – Most people do not know what they want unless they see it.

Most of the times, our decisions are based on the emotional mind than rational mind – Past memories, emotional associations with an earlier event, attachment to people, conflict of interest, Likability – all play a massive role in tuning our subconscious mind to take decisions on behalf of us – there is a higher probability of error in your judgement, when there is only one option to choose.


Multiple solutions necessitate that ideas need to distinctively different and meaningful, not just tweakings of earlier concept – This results in unexpected, disruptive ideas. More options, More informed choices, well-tested the solution, higher the quality, faster the decisions.

‘Research In Motion’ wanted a new brand name for its PDA – The PDA market that time had a lot of negative associations – Notifications irritated, stressed out the users, Vibration further added to the stress. The design team looked at things that could bring joy, that could slow their life, relax, make them enjoy. Camping, Movies, Cycling -the names went on and someone added ‘Picking Strawberries’ as relaxing and pleasant exercise – Designers started to search for words of similar vowels ‘Strawberry’ and got a word ‘Blackberry’ and one guy felt that keys of the phone looked like seeds of ‘Blackberry’. Thus generating multiple options by digging deeper had helped RIM to get a new brand name.

People discuss ideas, provide feedback on ideas rather than on people. Ideas compete and not people. Designers/creative thinkers would not take the disagreements on an idea as a personal criticism, undercutting politics, reduced bias, resulting in better team cooperation and smooth implementation of the idea by the team. No persuasion, No lobbying required to get the team behind any one idea. Designers or the team behind ideas would be open to criticism and suggestions on alternative solutions – No interpersonal friction, No blaming. There would be balanced arguments, well-mannered debates unlike the case of a single option.

To generate multiple ideas, you need the support of multi-disciplinary team resulting in a healthy exchange of ideas, knowledge – It is a collaborative and open problem-solving process. Feedback – even minor negative views are encouraged, valued and explored. An old proverb says “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan” – To learn from failure, you need to ‘Own’ the failure – In the collaborative problem-solving process, the team would be happy to share the collective ownership of failure, learn from it and move the organization forward.

To generate multiple ideas, designers are required to wear multiple hats and view the same solution from different perspectives. Example – Solution could be viewed from User’s perspective, managerial perspective, Workshop employee perspective, Maintenance personnel’s perspective, marketing guy’s perspective, retailer employee’s perspective – Wearing multiple hats provide more information, refine the concepts and make it better.

In 1990s P&G’s largest and best-known skin care brand “Oil of Olay” was struggling and the company needed domination in skin care to be a credible player in the beauty business. To gain the market share – The management team had three strategic choices in front of them(Instead of exploring just a single option) -Should they launch another new brand? or Buy an established Skin-Care leader? or Re-invent the Olay Brand? P&G team decided to re-invent the existing brand.

Similarly, they explored multiple options for their target segment customers – Olay’s existing customers were Older women aged fifty-plus – who used Olay Brand for fighting wrinkles. Olay explored another segment -women in mid-thirties are highly committed to skin care and are more willing to pay for quality and innovation.

P&G understood that they could not just focus on “Wrinkles” alone. Thirty-Five plus women had other concerns for the skin. In research, P&G team unraveled other needs – Dry Skin, Age Spots, Uneven skin tones, Appearance of skin – No brands were focusing on those needs. P&G launched “Olay Total Effects” as a masstige(between mass and prestige segment) product in 1999, targeting women in mid-thirties, redefined the market of what anti-aging products could do. 

References: Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, Influence by Robert Cialdini, Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, HBR’s 10 Best Reads on Making Smart Decisions.

The One Reason Why Designers Present Multiple Concepts for a Problem

Designer’s job is to solve a problem and they present a minimum of two concept solutions for a problem. The main reason why a designer presents more than one concept -?

See the image above – Yes, both the horizontal lines are of equal in dimensions but made to appear of different lengths. The top line does not mean anything without the presence of the bottom line.

See the image below – Both the Orange colored circles are of the same diameter, but they appear large of small due to different sized gray circle. You could change impression or impact of a concept or an idea.

A real estate sales agent starts with showing a couple of undesirable houses(with inflated prices) to any new customer. He calls those properties as “Set Up” properties and are not intended for selling, but only for showing it to prospective customers. When customers see genuine properties after being shown those undesirable houses, they love the new houses.

When you visit a retail store, the sales personnel would try to sell you costlier item first. Example – If you bought a suit first for Rs.25000, the subsequent purchase of accessories for Rs.2000 would appear smaller or negligible.

To promote a song of an unknown artist or a new song from known artist, radio stations sandwiched the song between two “familiar” songs, in order to avoid people switching stations. And they had to follow this practice until listeners felt that this new song sounded “familiar.”

The high priced entries in restaurant menus boost revenue for the restaurant, though nobody buys them, as customers order the second most expensive item.

Audi’s cheapest model A3 is launched to boost sales of A4 model. People would not like to associate with the model of lowest cost. The same reason why Maruti has versions like LXi, VXi, and ZXi. Maruti wants to sell more of medium versions, so created models one level below and above, so that it could create a comparison model(Choices) for the customer.

When Williams-Sonoma launched his ‘bread making machine’, nobody bought. He designed another larger machine, which was double the price of the earlier machine. People liked this machine, realized it was expensive, looked at the next available option and purchased the earlier model machine. His sales rose.

One of my friend wants to make sure his salary is always more than his wife’s sister’s husband’s salary.

Humans rarely chose things in absolute terms. They need to see things by comparing one thing with another. A woman is termed beautiful with relative to another woman. Did you buy a shirt by just looking at only one shirt? Did you buy a house by just looking at only one house? Did you not explore options like Subway, McDonald’s, Pizzahut, Asif Biriyani, when you had plans to go out for lunch? Shall I go to the party tonight or should I watch a movie at home or should I visit the uncle tonight? Jobs? Education? We are naturally wired to compare things and decide. We need choices.

References: Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, Influence by Robert Cialdini, Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

The One ‘Design Thinking’ Tool To Manage Uncertainties

In 1983, William Smithburg, CEO of Quaker acquired Gatorade for $220 million. It was touted as an impulsive purchase. Quaker grew the brand value to $3 billion. In 1994, Smithsburg bought another beverage brand, Snapple, for $1.8 billion. Due to Gatorade’s grand success, none of the board members opposed or protested this acquisition. A few years later, Snapple was sold off to Triarc Corporation for $300 million. Does Success blind us?

‘Fastrack’ was a successful “Rental Taxi” service brand in Chennai and was a leader for many years. Another brand ‘NTL’ came and the market became competitive. ‘Fastrack’ could successfully wither the storm, as NTL did not fight on any differentiation. But ‘Ola’ and ‘Uber’ came with a massive differentiation and disrupted the market. Though ‘Fastrack’ is surviving, it had lost its market leadership. ‘NTL’ was washed away. If I was a “Fast track” owner, how would I know that somebody unrelated to my field would come and disrupt my market?

Designer’s job is not to design a product or service, but solve a problem, anticipate future scenarios and prepare the team to face them. To solve a problem, we were taught to generate multiple options – “DO NOT PURSUE A SINGLE OPTION” – Single option blinds us, and we could get attached emotionally to the single idea (Happened in the case of Snapple acquisition).

For every option, designers would generate multiple scenarios – this reduced considerable uncertainty and prepare ourselves to face the potential outcomes. Yes, I agree that research shows that humans are poor in predicting the future. Particularly, the ‘experts’ have failed badly in predicting future – Stock market prediction and acquisitions are best of the examples. Designers use different creativity tools for creating multiple options. We use “What If” creativity technique to generate varied scenarios to solve future uncertainties. “What If” tool is used sometimes to generate options for the problems. “What If” tool may not predict the exact future but could help in reducing some of the uncertainties.


A biased mind would be blind to many of the subtle hints in the environment, people. An earlier success would create a bias in mind in the form of overconfidence. The first step in solving a problem is to remove the overconfidence, keep a beginner’s mind every time, look at the problem from different perspectives – from the perspective of a shop floor employee, a retailer, a customer, a user, an engineer. The research shows that to solve a problem, to predict the solution’s future implications, a person’s overconfidence makes him unconsciously draw conclusions and take decisions based on the information available close to him. In this case, he would be blind to future surprises, which were beyond his existing source of knowledge.


‘What If’ forces your mind out of logical reasoning – it is a generative creativity technique. By asking ‘What If’ questions, we can provoke a fictional narrative for the future. It helps us to explore a spectrum of possibilities and prepare for the worst possible scenarios.

Long back, while designing a speaker, I asked myself a provocative question – ‘What If’ the speaker flies like a helicopter? We made a concept similar to the present minion toy, which could move around based on the sound’s movement.

Imagine I am starting a restaurant –

What if everyone working in my restaurant is an entrepreneur? We all have a problem with employees learning the skills, going out and starting another restaurant. But how about hiring people who would like to start their own restaurant in near future – You would have got a dedicated workforce providing wonderful customer service – None can match the team’s energy – Entrepreneurial thinking would bring forth radical ideas for your restaurant – You would be building a future network – You would gain franchising opportunities – With this provoking question, you were turning the problem into a solution.

What if my restaurant customer pays to keep his privacy? Vow! How about the whole restaurant is an open area, but you could create a temporary structure for families in minutes if they need privacy and willing to pay?

What if I allow my customers to sleep at afternoons? After lunch, we could allow them to sleep for 30 -90 minutes. We could explore this idea further.

What If I make customers pay with virtual currencies created by us? A loyalty program – to make sure we build loyal customers – customers could order food before they leave home.

What If a customer pays for the ingredients used in the product or service? Customers could decide the type of food he likes and type of ingredients he would like to be added – It is a customer’s menu – the customer need not follow the restaurant menu – Loyal customers could mail his requirements and type of preparations and consult the chef’s opinion – you could charge for service, consultation.

What If my restaurant acts as a bank? People go and deposit money in the bank. Can we ask people to come, deposit their prepared food in our restaurant, so that we could sell it to other customers(Of course with stricter quality controls and customer feedback? Like Airbnb – You do not own kitchen, you do not cook – But you are a restaurant for people to come and eat – the menu changes every day and nobody knows what food we get – People love surprises.

What If a competitor opens a new restaurant just opposite to us? What If the competitor offers the food for half the price of us? What if the competitor is a famous brand? What if the government changes rules and regulations for our proposed innovative idea? What If our customers do not trust our services? What If we receive a negative review in the websites or press? What If somebody gets poisoned by our food? What If something falls over a customer of something dangerous happens to the customer?


Chip and Dan Heath in their “Decisive” book talk about a stock investor “Penstock”. One of the striking aspects of Penstock is his humility in his predictive abilities(Lack of Over Confidence).

Most of the stock investors use a simple rule to predict what a stock is really worth – If the future target price is higher than the current price, we should buy the stock. Penstock feels that this rule provides a false confidence to the investors. According to him, “Future is uncertain. It is not absolute, but a range”.

He stretches his sense of future by asking two questions –What if the situation goes bad? What if the situation goes well? Through these questions, he analyses the reasons why a situation would go bad, and what would be the lowest price in that scenario? Similarly, he analyzes the possible bright scenarios and predicts the likely best price? He chooses a stock price that lies closer to the lower range and he was fairly successful.


‘What If’ scenario helps you to create a concrete future scenario and work backward to the present – It forces us to find explanations why the event might happen.

The Minnetonka Corporation was a seller of niche novelty items like bubble bath, scented candles, flavored lip balms. In 1980s Minnetonka’s Robert R Taylor wanted to introduce a liquid soap called ‘Softsoap’ dispensed by a soft hand pump and could be used in homes for handwashing. Most people used bar soaps that time and the competition were heavier in this market due to bigger brands. Results from pilot testing of liquid soap sample in the market were encouraging. The “Softsoap” appeared that it would capture rapid market share.

Robert R Taylor asked himself two questions – What if Sales was booming high? What if competitors launch the copy product soon?

These questions had made the Minnetonka team generate explanations for those scenarios – They came across one common major reason for both the scenarios to happen – The dispensing pumps.

There were only two companies that supplied plastic dispensing pumps and they had a limitation in production quantities. If the sales were high, the pumps would be a bottleneck in meeting the market demand. If competitor launched a similar product, it would further affect the supply of pumps to Minnetonka. The solution – The Minnetonka executives signed a contract of 100 million units of the pump assembly with both the suppliers for a period of 18-24 months.

Big bar manufacturers could not get the Pump Assembly for the next two years and by the time they entered the market, Minnetonka had a firm foothold.

If you are planning to ask for a raise in salary to your boss, think about possible scenarios – What If his mood was bad, what would you do? What If he points out a past situation and bases his judgment on that incident – how would I counteract? What If he says that I am not a team player – How would I counteract, show examples? What If he asks me to leave the job – can I show him that giving a raise is cheaper, effective than a new hire? If you are preparing for a job interview – act future scenarios.


Though we cannot minimize bad outcomes, ‘What If’ scenarios help people to prepare for surprises, understand the early signs of failure and cope better when they encounter inevitable future difficulties. Some of ‘What If’ scenarios may help in mitigating risk, introduce, change marketing activities, business strategies, product features.

References: Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, Well Designed by Jon Kolko.

How ‘Design Thinking’ turned ‘Febreze’ into a $1 Billion Brand

One of the P&G’s scientists accidentally discovered a chemical, that would draw scents of any object into the chemical’s molecules. He sprayed the chemical over the smelly fabrics, used socks, carpets and was pleasantly surprised to see that the unpleasant smell was gone when the mist dried. P&G saw a huge potential in the chemical, with an opportunity for wider applications

The P&G team observed that people who visit bars were leaving their jackets outside to avoid the smells due to smoke, alcohol. The market research confirmed that there was an immense requirement to mask pet smells in homes.

P&G named the product as “Febreze” and launched in a test market to validate the research and assumptions – They came across a user, whose job profile was “Park Ranger”, her job was to trap a lot of skunks. Due to her job profile, everything in her life smelled like the skunk, be it the clothing, curtains, bed, socks, room – Owing to this, She did not have any love life. She had tried all kinds of cure – special soaps and shampoos, unfortunately, the problems persisted. After using the Febreze, she almost cried and thanked the team for helping her love life. The skunk smell was gone.

The story was so inspiring that the P&G team felt that the product would be a huge success – A colorless, odorless liquid that would wipe out any foul odor without any stains.

So, P&G team positioned Febreze as a product that would allow people to rid themselves of embarrassing smells. They ran advertisements showing how people could mask their pet smells over home furniture –

“Sophie will always smell like Sophie, but my Sofa does not have to smell like Sophie?” – The advertisement message

P&G launched the product, ramped up production, distributed samples, stacked up containers in all stores to provide a visual trigger, spent a lot in advertisements.

Sales never picked up – the sales dwindled day by day and Febreze team were looking at a bleak future after 6 weeks of launch. So, why the product failed? How did they overcome?

In-Depth User Research

Steve jobs “I have always found is that you have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out what to sell. I have made this mistake probably more than anybody else. I have got the scars to prove it. So we started with: what incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?”

As a designer, whenever we come across a need or pain, we try to classify the need as People Problem or Situational Problem. The trouble with a situational problem – The user may not feel the need or pain if the situation changes and designing a product to meet just one situational problem would result in failure. The “Park Ranger” scenario was a Situational problem and not many users would face that type of scenario.

Pet problem – People love pets – If there is a need here for ‘Febreze’ product, then we could term as ‘People Problem’ – It needs detailed deep research to understand the need. You would love somebody as they are. After seeing the terrible results, P&G team went ahead with in-depth research to understand why the product failed. They visited a woman’s home who had nine cats. Though the house interior appeared clean and organized, the pet smells on curtains, furniture was overpowering for the research team, but the lady could not detect the smell. After series of research with pet owners, the team realized that most of them did not feel the “Pet Smell” as a major pain. Many of them could not detect the smell as they were getting used to their scent. Scents, in fact, fade with constant exposure. There was no trigger to make users buy the ‘Febreze’ product.


“Febreze” advertisements were all talking to rational mind and not to the emotional mind. The rational mind is not at all connected to our senses and only the emotional mind is connected to our sensory organs. Rational mind did not detect the pet smell and it never felt there was a problem or the need. The communication should appeal to both rational and emotional mind.


The golden rule in communications – “Never say the customer is wrong” – If you were saying that your room smells bad – You were blaming the customer that he was unable to keep it clean.

Will you admit that your house stinks?

Pets are loved, pointing problem with the pets is a wrong concept to promote the product. You should turn the problem into an aspirational statement, motivate him as if your product is trying to increase the sensory experience to a higher level so that it could benefit the user and the people around.


To develop a habit of using a product – there should be a cue which triggers an action and there should be a reward so that a craving for reward could be developed after repeated attempts. What was the cue for Febreze? Pet Smell? The smell from pet was a gradual process and the cue was not exactly defined or clear to the user. It was not an absolute point. Even if he was aware of the cue when he should start using the product(The action)? There was no proper guidance when to use the ‘Febreze’ product, even though a user buys the product – The cues were wrong and there was no clear indication when to take an action(Use the product). “No Smell” was not the destination. If right destination and the path is not defined, then the product would fail.


In User Research – One of the requirements is to look at users beyond the target segment – Extremes or Outliers or Non-Customers. If the product was already launched, we would try to understand and learn from people who use the product regularly(They may be outside the target segment) – Which could be called “Finding the BrightSpot”(Chip and Dan Heath used this term in his book “Switch”) – P&G team came across one such user – A woman with 4 teenage boys. The woman loved ‘Febreze’ and used it every day. She had no pets. No one smoked. The rooms were clean, tidy and no smell whatsoever. The teenagers never kept their room clean. So, she used to clean the rooms and to end the cleaning ritual in a nice way, she would spray the “Febreze”.


This scenario struck a chord with the research team – They started observing many people who kept their house clean and tidy – the team was moving in an opposite direction now. There was another user who after cleaning the clothes, folded them nicely, then sprayed the smooth comforter with a smile. Spraying was a mini-celebration for their work accomplishment – a way of feeling proud of their work. It is like having a sweet or dessert at the end of a spicy dinner.

Another user after smoothening the bed spreads, pillow, neatly arranging them – there was a smile, a relaxed, happy feeling in them and was proud to see their handiwork. After tidying the kitchen, wiping the counter clean – there was a smile, relaxed feeling in the user. The users treated cleaning as a ritual.

P&G team observed that this target segment was a massive one. But there was no pain to be solved – People were not looking for any options to end the cleaning ritual. A tablet need not be a painkiller – It could be a Vitamin too, but over a period of time, not having vitamins could turn into a pain. P&G team realized that ‘Febreze’ need not be a pain killer(For removing bad smells), but could be a Vitamin(Not solving a pain, but providing energy – boosting the visceral experience).


To create habitual experiences, we need to focus on behavior, not on attitudes or beliefs – Attitudes and Beliefs keep changing over a period of time and difficult to utilize. But behavior can be habituated.

Habit is activated by a cue that is associated with a context. As soon as a consumer sees a cue, an action happens, resulting in some reward, which further becomes a craving after multiple repetitions and the habit forms.

‘Febreze’ could be used(action) at the end of cleaning ritual(Cue) – The cue and when to take action was very clear, unlike the earlier scenario – after wiping the kitchen counter, after folding clothes, after neatly arranging bed spreads.

Here, the communication was not blaming the customer – not telling them their house is unclean – The communication was to elevate the user’s experience, to make something appear cleaner, to give more credibility to their cleaning ritual, to become an add-on sweet ingredient for their prepared food. It was no more about eliminating bad smells.

Design for Observability – P&G team added perfume to ‘Febreze’ to enhance the user’s visceral experience and user aspirations. It was a pleasant feedback mechanism to show the work done in right way.A pleasant smell would immediately attract the other people’s attention. It was an easy way for a user to show their sense of cleanliness to others in a subtle way.

Design for Craving – The pleasant smell at the end of cleaning brought the relaxation and the pride for the users – Over a period of usage, the mind began to relate smell as the completion of cleaning ritual – Without smell, the users felt like the work was not completed – the craving was being developed. Once craving was formed, it forces the user to form a habit of using the product every time they clean clothes, kitchen, carpet, curtains.

Once the craving began, even when the bottles ran suddenly dry – the bottles were designed in such a way that people could use diluted perfume in the container to spray over laundry clothes.(Temporary solution).


With deeper observational research, P&G team could convert a market disaster into a successful product. This case study shows that a product need not necessarily solve a pain point to become a successful one. Communicate proper cue, what actions, when to take actions to be communicated effectively to make people use the product. The reward systems need to be emotional as well as physical.

References: Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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 Feloni-Businessinsider.com, 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