A couple of months ago, I purchased a jar of face cream from a national cosmetic company through my area distributor. Although I had purchased many things from them in the past, I had never used this product.

When it arrived, I unscrewed the lid and was perplexed by what I saw. It was some sort of dispensing mechanism I had never seen before. No matter what I tried, I could not get the product out of the jar. There was a small wordless illustration inside the lid but I tried following it and still couldn’t get any face cream out of the jar. There were no other instructions.

Finally (feeling fairly stupid), I turned to my distributor. She emailed me directions. They didn’t make any sense. So she sent me a photo demonstrating how to use it and that’s when we discovered a problem. The packaging of her jar did not match mine. She called corporate and they told her they changed the packaging and dispensing method. She sent me new instructions but I still couldn’t get anything to come out, so we concluded that I somehow broke it trying to get it out or mine was defective. She sent me a replacement and instructions on how to dispense it and it worked! Several weeks later she forwarded an email to me from corporate which stated that the new dispensing method seemed to be causing problems and they were going to switch back to the original packaging.


This little incident teaches some valuable marketing lessons:

Make sure copy and explanations are easy to understand for all of your target audience not just certain segments

Since they’re a big company, one can only assume they tested the new packaging and directions or at least gave it a great deal of thought. But on whom did they test it? Many companies fail to understand the issues of first-time users or the readability level of their audience. Test the readability level of your copy at www.readbility-score.com and see if it matches the level of your target audience.

Always communicate changes to your sales and customer service staff

These people are on the front lines working directly with your clients. You should always let them know of any changes you’re going to make so they are prepared to field questions and assist with problems. Otherwise, they and the company look bad in the customers’ eyes.

Testing of a new product or service doesn’t guarantee success

Remember “new Coke”? Although Coca Cola tested the new product with focus groups, it bombed with the majority of the public and Coke soon brought back the original product. Not every change you make will be a success. Your market will let you know. Fail to listen to them and it can bring failure to your company.