When Market Research Fails

I recently wrote about the bad results that can come from supposedly expert market research, and I thought that in the interest of being candid I would share an example of a time when 3M ESPE’s market research led us down an unproductive path.

For any product introduction, 3M ESPE goes through a rigorous multi-stage commercialization process, including field evaluations and many other forms of research. In most cases, this process helps us identify and correct issues before introduction of a product. However, it isn’t foolproof, as this example will show.

In the 1990’s we introduced Temp Care, a thermoplastic material that allowed dentists to customize their temporary restorations. Temp Care required dentists to learn a totally new technique, but our field evaluations showed that this was not a problem.

In the real world, however, it was a problem. The product was not a commercial success. In hindsight, it seems to me that Temp Care was ahead of its time. Although it was a brilliant technical development, its technique was cumbersome and dentists in the real world didn’t have the time to master it, or they didn’t feel its benefits were worth the time investment. At the time, the technology simply pushed dentists too far.

Do you know of other examples of products that have pushed too far technically? In cases like this, the market research often shows that evaluators are excited by the product’s potential. But when it comes to the everyday hubbub in the operatory, dentists simply don’t have the time to devote to a new technique.

We learn from every failure, though, and have taken the lessons we learned from Temp Care into consideration for our subsequent product introductions. The silver lining is that we are now more conscious of keeping techniques simple and streamlined for dentists.


2 comments so far

  1. Sometimes, manufacturers put out a product that I file in the category of “a solution to a problem I don’t have.” If it’s better, faster, or faster AND better… that’s a good thing. Cheaper is probably attractive to some dentists, but I see it as secondary. I’m primarily concerned with doing my work at a higher level, more efficiently, and with less stress.

    • 3M ESPE on

      Great real world comments.
      The customer is at the center of all new product development at 3M ESPE. We employ a rigorous Six Gate commercialization process from Ideation through post launch. At every step, customer input is sought and valued. Whilst not infallible, this approach has resulted in numerous commercially successful and clinical impactful products.
      Thanks for your post.

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