Harbingers of Failure

Today I came across a story that FINALLY convinced me that the whole “data science” world is not utterly useless (joking! I’m joking! I do that.)

A study from the Wharton School of Economics uncovered the existence of a class of people I always suspected were out there, hiding in plain sight:

“We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers either through past purchases of new products that failed, or through past purchases of existing products that few other customers purchase. We discuss how these insights can be readily incorporated into the new product development process. Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that positive customer feedback is always a signal of future success.”

People who are likely to buy these doomed products are also likely to LIKE those doomed products, and provide positive feedback about them – in other words, they give good rating!

Once identified, it is merely a matter of tracking these consumers, following them around, inviting them into your lab, so to speak, so as to know which of your products really and truly have no chance in the marketplace. These are VALUABLE people, these harbingers. Think of how much time, money and effort could be saved merely by suggesting product notions to such a group.

“I LOVE IT” they exclaim. Straight to the trash goes the idea.

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