My favorite example of marketing arrogance comes from General Motors.
A number of years ago, GM introduced a totally redesigned model sedan. Personally, I thought it was exceptionally ugly; it reminded me of a hearse. And, apparently, I was not alone in that opinion. It was a dismal failure in the marketplace.
Marketplace failures abound, of course. But there is a back story:
GM’s marketing department ran a series of focus groups before the model was introduced. The respondents consistently and overwhelmingly panned it. But Marketing, in its wisdom, decided that the model was, in fact, so innovative that the focus group panelists couldn’t really see its charms. Marketing decided that as people got used to the look, they’d come to appreciate it–and buy it.
It didn’t happen.
The up-side to this story is that police departments across the country did buy them for their fleets. So, for the next several years, it was easy to spot unmarked police vehicles on the highway. The only ones driving these cars were the cops.
Practical Marketing Rule #9: In a dispute between marketing (or product development or the design team or finance or management) and the customer, bet on the customer every time. He’s the guy who decides market success.