Here's a statistic to keep in mind next time you hear a tirade about how marketers colonize the brains of consumers: In a measure of unaided recall, 50 percent of respondents to an InsightExpress poll couldn't name a single new product that had been launched in 2003. The product with the highest aided-recall score was the new $20 bill—in other words, not a product at all in the conventional sense. Marketers no doubt are doing their best to colonize consumers' brains, but people have deep reserves of obliviousness with which to combat such efforts.
It's not that consumers regard themselves as being averse to new products. In another part of the poll (conducted for Schneider & Associates and Stagnito Communications), 51 percent of respondents said they're "always looking for new products to try"; 70 percent "often recommend new products to family and friends." Still, the new products that fared best in the survey's recall section tended to have old brand names attached to them. The runner-up to the new $20 bill was Crest Night Effects, with the over-the-counter incarnation of Claritin coming in third. Filling out the top 10: Campbell's Chunky M'm! M'm! Good! To Go soup; over-the-counter Prilosec; Lay's Stax potato chips; V8 Splash Smoothies; Clorox Bleach Pen; Dawn Complete Dish Liquid; and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The only product among the top 20 that looked radically novel was the Segway Human Transporter—and even it is in essence a souped-up version of the scooter you might have owned as a 10-year-old. When people were asked to say which of 2003's new products they've actually purchased, the list was again dominated by familiar names—led by the Campbell's soup, Dawn dish soap, Lay's Stax chips, V8 smoothies and o-t-c Claritin. The moral of the story is that people want new things that aren't dauntingly unfamiliar. Indeed, 53 percent of respondents subscribed to the statement, "When I do try a new product, it is usually from a brand I know and trust." For some consumers, though, newness of any sort is just too alarming. Thus, a stick-in-the-mud 8 percent said, "I only buy new products when I absolutely have to."
What factors move people to try a particular new product? The foremost influences cited were "recommendation from a family member/ friend" (mentioned by 55 percent of respondents), TV commercials (53 percent), store ads/displays (48 percent), free samples by mail (46 percent), newspaper fliers/coupons (45 percent) and in-store free samples (44 percent).