Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I am the harbinger of doom

Bad Dad observed that, if we like a product, that is a pretty good sign they will stop making/selling it. This talent/trait means I have a bit of a hoarder's mentality when I find something I like.

It appears that I am not alone.  In fact, some marketing folks at UPenn have identified consumers who are 'Harbingers' of failure.

I'm the type of person who will be swayed by features like higher quality or compact size, who would buy a Sony Betamax over a VHS.  I would spend $100+ on an iron that lasts 15 years over a $30 one that lasts 1-2 years.  People like me do not rule the consumer marketplace.
"Betavhs2" by Senor k - English Wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Actually, I wonder if the study co-authors, Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester, and Catherine Tucker, did not stratify enough. They lump together early adopters with people who buy heavily promoted products "on sale" with people who purchase niche products. I'd like to see if their results hold up if they separate out the three groups.

For instance, if a product appears to be headed for flop status, wouldn't many companies/stores heavily promote the product (on sale!) or close it out (on clearance!).  That lures price-sensitive buyers.  Yet, some of their Harbingers appear to pay more than average consumers, signaling either early adopters or niche consumers.

Anyway, the upshot is that some people have a propensity to select products that are likely to go out of production by the big companies. However, consumers of niche products are also more likely to purchase the products they favor over the internet, and pay more than for bulk commodity products. You don't have to go to Wharton to figure that out. But, what do I know, I'm just a rocket scientist harbinger of doom.


  1. Anonymous15:47

    I have long been a harbinger of doom specifically for bras; its very predictable that when I find a bra style I like a lot, well fitting, comfy, blah blah, it will be discontinued within a couple of months. So I'm interested to see that this applies in some broader areas of consuming.


    1. My harbinger superpowers include bras, but extend far, far beyond. Bad Dad is also a niche husband.

  2. I have long had a tendency to select items that are likely to go out of production, over a wide field of categories and with consistent results. I am also a niche shopper. I do love the idea of being a harbinger of failure though. I am far too set in my ways to become a marketing lovers dream.


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