Avoid Making the Edsel Mistake - (Archived)

The Ford Edsel. Just saying it brings to mind one of the greatest product flops in history. It’s the thing business case studies are made of and has become synonymous with falling short of expectations and pure rejection from the consumer. As noted by Dan Neil in the September 17th edition of Time magazine, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the Edsel’s ill fated unveiling. The Edsel has become the cautionary tale of over promising and under delivering. Ford spent, at the time, unprecedented money and time on promoting and marketing the Edsel leading up to its release. Ford looked at all the feedback they and other car companies received from consumers and designed a car to supposedly satisfy them all. Edsel was supposed to be the answer to all the problems, concerns, and desires of the driving public. Rather than focusing on just one or two top needs of the consumer, Ford wanted to do it all. Wanting to satisfy all the needs of the public was not their biggest sin, though. It was the fact that they actively promised that it would do it all. What product could live up to that level of hype?

We will often hear that from the folks we interview. Their service provider just couldn’t deliver on all their promises. Rather than focusing on the great innovation or new feature of a new product or service, the consumers can only see those things that the company said they could deliver, and ultimately didn’t. It doesn’t matter that the specific failed feature wasn’t of great importance; ultimately promises were broken and expectations were not met. Our focus groups and surveys often identify scores of needs and desires of the market. Our challenge at that point is to help our clients identify those 2-3 features that are most important. Making promises on 2-3 features and ultimately delivering on them ensures avoidance of making the Edsel mistake.

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