He Said, She Said: Product Differentiation

We read this week about a new product from Unilever that is designed to refresh that pile of worn clothes in your bedroom.

Which got us thinking about how designing and marketing new products is so tricky but yet it’s a key part of running a successful business. Here are our thoughts:

He said

Shocked and stunned. Unilever have literally invented a bottle of fresh air to spray at your clothes for £7.50.

Waterbeds used to be popular in the 70s and 80s. They were silly expensive objects that cost heaps to keep warm and provided an incredibly poor sleep. But they were popular for a while and if you had a enough money for a waterbed then you probably had enough money for accessories for your waterbed. I knew a bloke who invented a product to clean the water of a waterbed! – he made loads of money. Rather than laugh at the idiocy of punters who shell out for products that seem to have no tangible value, can your company find a way to convince your customers to buy a product or service with low costs, and questionable added value?

Then again do you really want to be that sort of company? And if you aren’t, will someone fill the gap you refuse to compete in?

She said

Unilever are mostly doing the right things here – things we bang on about to our clients. They are researching their audiences, identifying gaps in the market, discovering new consumer habits and then creating and marketing products that fill those needs. All good sound business sense so far

Then you realise they’ve invented something ridiculous.

Unilever don’t care that it’s ridiculous though, they know no one really needs this product and they aren’t going to save the planet with a canister of fresh air, but different and unusual products get talked about.

This isn’t a long-term product, it’s a fad, a stunt, a cry for attention. It exists to generate sales while it can and, more importantly, get Unilever vital column inches of publicity (I can hear the Daily Mail screaming “Millennials Don’t Wash Their Clothes” from here), thus ensuring Unilever and the juggernaut of global capitalism can keep on rolling.

Aren’t we all a bit bored of this though….?

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