The Shampoo Yogurt Pitfall
In 1979 Clairol, a hair-care Proctor & Gamble subsidiary, introduced its Touch of Yogurt Shampoo. [i] However, the product failed. Several reasons may explain this failure.
Clairol likely assumed that the general public readily understood yogurt’s purported hair benefits. [ii] If so, this unwarranted assumption reflects inadequately informative advertising. Apparently, “Yogurt”—the largest word on Clairol’s package—“confused” some customers who reportedly, “ate it, and became sick.” [iii]
Yogurt in hair may seem strange to common understanding. Though, even if mistaken for food people commonly understand yogurt requires refrigeration to ensure safe consumption. Thus, if sufficiently informed, no legitimate reason exists to consume shampoo simply because it contains yogurt. Therefore, this ridiculous reaction suggests “ineffective promotion” possibly from a “confusing marketing message,” failing to adequately inform consumers about the product. [iv]
Innovation Not Always Attractive
Companies sometimes differentiate their brand by line extension—adding new forms, colors, sizes, ingredients, or flavors to an existing brand.[v] Line extension diversifies products. However, companies need not diversify where customers react positively to the existing product. Why reinvent the wheel with a proven product? Thus, line extension might unnecessarily assume a need for product variation. This assumption neglects the distinction between innovativeness and attractiveness since new features may not always stimulate marketable appeal. Clairol perhaps espoused this “questionable” assumption. [vi]
By including yogurt, Clairol presumably extended its shampoo line. If so, the added yogurt feature represents a diversifying ingredient. Assuming Clairol intended a line extension as plausibly inferred from its yogurt-infusion, perhaps Clairol conflated innovation with marketability to differentiate itself among mainstream competitors.
Even if yogurt provided hair-related health benefits, an assumption perhaps overlooking skin sensitivities, Clairol assumed the risk of customer aversion. For example, Clairol disregarded uncomfortable “associations with a milk-based hair product.” [vii] After all, “grossed-out” sentiments of “soured-milk in hair” hardly evinces “consumer appeal.” [viii] By mistaking innovation with customer appeal, Clairol neglected that not all distinguishing features produce positive results. As one commentator aptly asserts, “Innovation sometimes spawns brilliance. Other times ridicule.” [ix]
Yet, Clairol fails to heed history. Despite failing with “Look of Buttermilk” shampoo, yogurt seemed worth the try? [x] Think again! But whoever ignores history risks repeating it. This principle applies for Clairol, whose omission to correct reaps ruin. [xi]
Two Plausible Alternatives to Failure
- Educate Customers
If Clairol “educated customers” about “yogurt” shampoo, people might not otherwise eat it, and possibly learn more about its ostensible benefits. [xii] Enhanced consumer awareness tends to signal a seemingly credible product, supporting sales.
- Trends Not “Trendy”
Another way to possibly prevent Touch of Yogurt’s failure might involve replacing “trendy” with workable trends. For instance, Clairol, “might have fared better,” using shampoos with “milk proteins” or a slogan emphasizing “the freshness of dairy cream.” [xiii] Images of “milk proteins” and “freshness” perhaps evoke moisturizing qualities more viscerally compatible with “peoples’ minds.” [xiv] These dairy ingredients now constitute prevailing shampoo trends. But yogurt in shampoo seems foreign.
[i] See Thomas C. Frohlich, “The 10 Worst Product Fails of All Time,” Time, Inc., March 6, 2014, p. 3-4, http://time.com/13549/the-10-worst-product-fails-of-all-time/.
[ii] See Catherine Northington, “8 Uses for Yogurt in Your Hair and Skin Care Routine,” Cheat Sheet, Inc., January 15, 2015, p. 2, http://www.cheatsheet.com/life/8-uses-for-yogurt-in-your-hair-and-skin-care-routine.html/?a=viewall; See Lisa Irby, “How to Moisturize Dry Natural Hair (Tips for 4B & 4C Hair)—Do the Cherry Lola Treatment,” NaturallyCurly.com, 2015, p. 6, http://napturallycurly.com/remedies-for-dry-natural-hair/; See Hairfinder, “Yogurt for Faster Hair Growth,” Hairfinder.com, Oct 16, 2015, p. 1, http://www.hairfinder.com/hair4/yogurt.htm; See CurlyNikki, “Yogurt for Stronger, Moisturized Natural Hair!” July 18, 2011, p. 1-2, http://www.curlynikki.com/2011/07/yogurt-for-stronger-moisturized-natural.html.
[iii] See Thomas C. Frohlich, “The 10 Worst Product Fails of All Time,” Time, Inc., March 6, 2014, p. 3-4, http://time.com/13549/the-10-worst-product-fails-of-all-time/; See Jim Morris, “10 Big Time Product Failures—Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt,” Mandatory, Oct. 31, 2012, p. 2, http://www.mandatory.com/2012/10/31/10-big-time-product-failures/4.
[iv] See Tim Berry, “Product and Brand Failures: A Marketing Perspective Bplans,” Palo Alto Software 1996-2015, p. 7, http://articles.bplans.com/product-and-brand-failures-a-marketing-perspective/.
[v] See Gary Armstrong, Philip Kotler, “Principles of Marketing, sixteenth edition,” 2016, 2014, 2012, Pearson Education, Inc., p. 256.
[vi] See Failwatching, “The Best Product and Brand Failures,” 2015, p. 1, http://www.failwatching.com/#!failures/c1c8q; See Failwatching, “The Best Product and Brand Failures—Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt Shampoo,” 2015, p. 1, http://www.failwatching.com/#!clairol%E2%80%99s-touch-of-yogurt-shampoo/zoom/c1c8q/i81u1h.
[vii] See Thomas C. Frohlich, “The 10 Worst Product Fails of All Time,” Time, Inc., March 6, 2014, p. 4, http://time.com/13549/the-10-worst-product-fails-of-all-time/.
[viii] See Michelle Lewis, “The Wisdom of Yogurt: 3 Business Lessons from Fermented Milk,” OnTheCloud, August 12, 2013, p. 2, http://onthecloud.mycroburst.com/the-wisdom-of-yogurt-3-business-lessons-from-fermented-milk/; See Rebecca Haden, “The Consumer Graveyard: Touch of Yogurt Shampoo,” Selling To The Masses, October 1, 2013, p. 1, http://www.sellingtothemasses.com/2013/10/the-consumer-graveyard-touch-of-yogurt-shampoo/.
[ix] See Jim Morris, “10 Big Time Product Failures—Clairol’s Touch of Yogurt,” Mandatory, Oct. 31, 2012, p. 2, http://www.mandatory.com/2012/10/31/10-big-time-product-failures/4.
[x] See Matt Haig, “Brand Failures: The Truth about the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time,” Library of Congress, p. 60, 1988.
[xi] Holy Bible (NIV), Proverbs 12:1; Galatians 6:7.
[xii] See Michelle Lewis, “The Wisdom of Yogurt: 3 Business Lessons from Fermented Milk,” OnTheCloud, August 12, 2013, p. 2, http://onthecloud.mycroburst.com/the-wisdom-of-yogurt-3-business-lessons-from-fermented-milk/;
[xiii] See Rebecca Haden, “The Consumer Graveyard: Touch of Yogurt Shampoo,” Selling To The Masses, October 1, 2013, p. 2, http://www.sellingtothemasses.com/2013/10/the-consumer-graveyard-touch-of-yogurt-shampoo/.
[xiv] See Id. at 2.