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Level Heads for Sweet Hearts!

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Advertising has come a long way in the last 100 years. One of the early greats, Claude Hopkins, convinced Americans to buy Schlitz beer because the company steam-cleaned their bottles (so did the competition). He went on to persuade women to use Palmolive soap because Cleopatra did (historically impossible). These and other promotional feats documented in his autobiography, My Life in Advertising, share in common that they are directed at the user of the product.

(photo - Black Magic)Valentine's Day brings to mind a different approach — aiming for the buyer. The product was Rowntree's (a U.K confectioner) chocolate sampler that would seem very out of place today—"Black Magic" (the photo on the right).

The story of Black Magic is told in the London Science Museum's Science and Art of Medicine Gallery, where an original box on display. In the 1930s, stiff competition from Cadbury forced Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree to ask his Board of Directors for ₤3000 (almost $3 million today) to employ psychologists to assist in the development and marketing of new chocolate products. This lead to a revolutionary new strategy in new product development:

(photo - Black Magic advertisement 1930s)The company's 1930s research uncovered that the purchaser of chocolates were mostly men, and given the somber times of the post-Depression era, were reluctant to buy the frilly, lacy, pink heart shaped boxes of chocolate so popular today. Instead, men preferred packaging more in their self-image — level headed and austere. The result was Black Magic.

In our QFD world, we now have more structured tools for this task.

Value Chain Analysis

From raw materials to the first bite, there is a chain of players and processes that can either promote or torpedo a product. In QFD, we examine each of these players and processes to identify what must go right and what must not go wrong in order for the product to succeed.

For Black Magic in the 1930s, it is the gentleman purchaser who will either promote or torpedo the success of the product. The result — by 1936, sales of Black Magic had doubled.

Here is another example why Value Chain analysis is important: A beverage company came up with a promotion that would give customers 30% more product at the same price. Their marketing plan was initially conceived in a taller bottle — for a very visible difference to the consumer looking at competitive products on nearby shelves. However, this ignored the retailer and their stock boys, another member of the value chain. To accommodate the taller bottles, the height of all the nearby shelves in that aisle would have to be adjusted (to maintain visual flow). This is a painstaking process of first removing all the products and then moving metal brackets and shelves into new positions. Not only did it waste time, it wasted cubic space for the other products that were not as tall. Cubic space in a supermarket is holy, and since the retailer would not make additional profit on the 30%-free offer, they had no motivation to comply with the promotion. The result was that the taller bottles were end-capped away from the beverage aisle and the promotion was unsuccessful. Had the needs of the retailer been considered, the bottles could have been made wider, and thus require no change in the shelving.

Emotional Quality with Kansei Engineering

In QFD, we identify two classes of needs: Use and Esteem. 'Use' needs are those that solve a customer problem or enable an opportunity. 'Esteem' needs are those that make the customer feel good about themselves or look good to others whose opinion they esteem. Readers familiar with Value Engineering (VE) will recognize these definitions.

QFD is my method of choice for use needs. In the chocolate box example, these would include things like chocolates are not damaged, I know which chocolate is which so I don;t have to bite each one to tell (a la Forrest Gump), etc.

For esteem needs, I prefer Kansei Engineering (called Lifestyle Deployment when integrated into a QFD study). Kansei uses different tools from the fields of psychology, marketing, industrial design, and statistics to discover unconscious preferences that motivate customer satisfaction and choice. This requires clear segmentation of customers because motivators are very personal and cultural. For Black Magic chocolate, the level headed male purchaser proved to be the key segment rather than the consuming female. And their preference for understated elegance led to this unique package design.

Customer Value Chain analysis and Kansei Engineering are advanced QFD topics that are taught in the QFD Black Belt® course.

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