In designing new products, do firms research their customers in depth? For many firms, the answer would be no.  For example, consider our recent Trix postIn 2016, General Mills removed the original Trix. The firm replaced it with a natural version. General Mills thought was a great idea. Yet, it it did not work. Kids loved Trix as it was, not the new version. Today’s posts deals with consumer input in new product planning. Thus, we address the tongue-in-cheek question. Homer Simpson, New Product Guru?


Homer Simpson, New Product Guru?

Getting the RIGHT input from the RIGHT consumers is crucial. The right input, right consumer theory probably does not apply to Homer Simpson.

As Daniel Burstein observes for the MarketingSherpa blog:

“Customers can offer valuable insights. But if you’ve spent any time monitoring customer feedback, you know they can have interesting opinions. Controversial perhaps. Wacky even. Impossible to bring to market in a profitable way. And occasionally downright bizarre. So how do you square this circle? Customer feedback is extremely valuable, but customers don’t always know what they’re talking about.”

“Exhibit A: One Homer J. Simpson. In an episode of ‘The Simpsons,’ Homer finds his long-lost half brother, who happens to be rich and owns a car company. His brother offers him a free car. Then he soon realizes none of his firm’s cars are what Homer really wants. Sensing an opportunity, he sees Homer as the proxy for the ‘average man.’ He unleashes him with total authority to design a car. The result — a monstrosity. (“You know that little ball on the antenna that helps you find your car in the parking lot? That should be on every car!”) And a monstrosity that costs $82,000, to boot.”



Get the RIGHT Input from the RIGHT Consumers

Does this mean consumers should not be part of new product planning? No, it means the right input from the right consumers is crucial. Homer Simpson’s input is wrong. And he is not typical of the target market. Burstein says: “Here’s the problem. Homer is not the ideal customer. He drives an old, beat-up, used car.”

Burstein offers these tips:

  1. Identify ideal customer(s).  “Every product isn’t right for every customer. And when you try to serve everyone, you serve no segment well. Instead, you serve all segments mediocrely or poorly.” 
  2. Create feedback mechanisms for ideal customer. If your ideal customer is a senior citizen, and you have a product like an E-book reader, listen to that customer and serve them through an in-person presence in brick-and-mortar locations. Show them how to use the product. However,  millennials may desire very different interactions.”
  3. Determine if feedback is from an outlier. “Consistently document customer feedback. Also add surveys and customer reviews. You’re trying to identify common themes from customers. You may receive in-depth feedback from a passionate customer. However, they may be an outlier.”
  4. Analyze feedback to see if it’s any good. “It’s easy to be defensive when you get feedback. Once you know the customer fits your ideal customer set and is not an outlier, take a real, honest look at the feedback. Do this even if it calls out something your firm did wrong. Or maybe they have a good idea.” 
  5. See if you can profitably address the issue or idea.  “Much like Homer’s car, not all ideas can be profitable. It helps to reach beyond the marketing team with your customer-first mission. Build a multidisciplinary customer-first team and include folks from manufacturing, product design, service delivery, and customer service.”
  6. Once you implement it – live it! “Everyone’s actions, every one’s words, all marketing, and all product delivery must exemplify a customer-first commitment.”


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Homer Simpson, New Product Guru? Getting the RIGHT input from the RIGHT consumers is crucial.

10 Replies to “Homer Simpson, New Product Guru?”

  1. I never realized how difficult and tedious it may be to create the right product for consumers. Marketers may think they know what their consumers want, but just like Homer’s brother, they sometimes may not. Clearly, consumer feedback is extremely important for this reason in order for a product to be successful in the marketplace.

  2. While consumer feedback is important, it should not be followed religiously. There are countless demographics that can be tapped into, and doing market research on one demographic does not translate to all of them. A product that is rated highly by one group may be rated poorly by another larger group where the money lies. While consumer feedback can be a good indicator of what products should be offered, the firm’s marketers themselves need to use their own expertise as well.

  3. I did not realize how extremely imperative it is that in order to find the right target market so many feedback mechanisms are needed. This article would be very helpful to a firm that is trying to please their consumer with a new product. However, I do agree with Anthony that there are many other ways to address what products the consumer wants/needs.

  4. The clip perfectly depicts what happens if a company does not research it’s market more extensively. Homer is a prime example of what I believe to be an outlier of the target market. To avoid catering to outliers and possibly wasting costs in production, it is important to research and interview a lot more potential customers.

  5. It is trite to state that customer feedback is significant. The point is that sometimes, the feedback is not from oral feedback, but from the customer behavior. Bias could exist in every aspect of communication and translation. Besides, customers might not realize what they really want. Finding the possible improvement from customer behaviors could help businesses avoid misunderstanding.

  6. I have always wondered about this! I love that episode of the Simpsons because I yearned to be in his shoes. As car enthusiast I see many of what is offered today as pandering to the general masses. Which is great for sales, good for making money but bad for making me excited to drive. I am not excited to see the all new Camry and I definitely do not want an ugly Kia. Style and good looks should not cost more money, why do all the new model cars seem to homogenize into grey shapeless blobs. It is necessary to have the low buck people carrier that is boring and there is the opposite end of the spectrum of high dollar expensive luxury sports cars. However where is the middle of the line? I realize there may not be a large market for this need but I can’t be the only one. How do these car companies do their research and who are they asking? Id like to dive deeper in how automotive manufactures process the info they get.

  7. The target market has to be examined very throughly. It was not hard to see why Trix failed with their alternative product. Kids have little to no interest in the natural version that they were trying to push. Customer feedback is key in a products success. Even the most brand loyal customers will falter when their voices are ignored for, for so very long.

  8. When you ask for customer feedback you get the good with the bad. You need to let the recommendations you take be specific enough that they actually mean something, but vague enough that they don’t drive too many people out of the target market. Landing in the middle is the difficult trick, but if it was easy, everyone would have done it.

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