You’ve heard the old adage – “spend a little upfront to save a lot down the road.”  This is the underlying message in a lot of product and concept testing that market research firms do.  By conducting focus groups or usability studies, RMS helps clients better understand market potential before a product or service is launched to the masses.

Here are four companies that could have saved face by spending money upfront to conduct market research in order to save a lot of money down the road by preventing them from launching an unsuccessful product.  Each is accompanied by the approach RMS would offer.

1) Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water

Yes, Coors, the beer brewing company.  In the late 1980s Coors decided to enter the bottled water market.  Not surprisingly, consumers could not grasp why Coors would market a bottled water product and it was quickly discontinued.  Interestingly enough, some may argue the “Silver Bullet” tastes more like water than this Rocky Mountain counterpart.

RMS Suggestion: How about conducting a quick pulse usability study among a random sample of consumers.  I think results would have quickly shown that this product launch would prove unsuccessful.

2) Colgate Kitchen Entrees

Do you see the connection between branding toothpaste and branding kitchen entrees?  Me neither.  This didn’t stop Colgate from creating various kinds of dinner meals.  The thinking here was consumers would eat Colgate meals and carry that brand usage over to brush their teeth.  So, in order to push sales of toothpaste, let’s create products that create the need to have you brush your teeth?  No word on whether or not Crest went through with their “Cavity flavored ice cream.”

RMS Suggestion: I think a focus group with consumers who do the majority of grocery shopping in their household would have let Colgate know this was not a good idea.

3) Kellogg’s Breakfast Mates

This clever little shelf product was marketed to children as an easy and quick way to eat cereal.  The idea itself has some substance.  Placing cereal in a packaged bowl, sealing it, include milk and a spoon.  There you have it.  I know what you are asking yourself, “Doesn’t the milk need to be refrigerated?”  Well, the answer is no.  They did their R&D on that aspect.  But doesn’t everyone love warm milk when eating their cereal?  I guess they spent their entire research budget on developing this unrefrigerated warm milk, instead of first understanding people don’t want it.

RMS Suggestion: I think some one-on-one taste testing with some consumers who eat cereal several times a month would have helped Kellogg’s understand the flaw with this food product.

4) Maxwell House Ready to Drink Coffee

As an avid coffee drinker, this is one of my favorites.  Again, the concept itself has some credibility.  Maxwell House wanted to make coffee easy and more convenient to drink.  Therefore they created a microwave safe carton of ready-brewed coffee that you can heat up, pour and drink.  Wait…?  The ready-brew carton is not microwave safe?  Consumers decided it’s just as easy to pour a cup of hot coffee from a pot into a mug.  This product did not last long after its launch in 1990.

RMS Suggestion: How about a focus group made up of coffee drinkers?  The moderator could explore certain trade-offs coffee drinkers are willing to make regarding convenience, time, and taste.  This uncertainty would have been discovered in the research.

Have ideas about other products that were begging for market research? Comment below.