Harbingers of failure. Doom a product?

Harbingers of failure: meet the customers you don’t want to love your product
[Via Ars Technica]

A central premise in marketing seems so obvious that it doesn’t even bear scrutiny: if customers give you positive feedback on your product, that’s good. And if those people buy the product repeatedly, that’s even better.

But what if certain customers just don’t have great taste? Or, more precisely, what if their tastes don’t match up with those of the rest of the population? Positive feedback and early sales from these customers might actually not be good news—they could be a sign that the product’s going to tank.

A recent paper in the Journal of Marketing Research has identified a group of customers whose support for a product is a “harbinger of failure,” a signal that the product will eventually flop. “Increased sales of a new product by some customers can actually be a strong signal of future failure,” researchers write. So who are these people?


So I am waiting for someone to propose identifying all the harbingers of failure and remove them from society. Then every new product will succeed, right?

Or what happens when a competitor pays harbingers to buy a specific product? Perhaps harbingers will sell off their bad purchasing approaches to the highest bidder?Once everyone knows what the harbingers are buying they will stay away.

So much trouble.

Perhaps it would be better to develop business models where success is not dependent on a mass audience but a more personal one? What if selling just to the harbingers of failure was enough to make the product successful?

There is a business opportunity here for the right companies. The failure comes from the businesses’ poor models, not from the harbingers.

Image: Loozrboy