Accidental Product Marketing – Case Study by Harvard Business Review

In the world of marketing, errors occur much more frequently than the marketers care to admit.

The outsiders think that everything the marketers have to do must be pitch-perfect and that all decisions regarding every new product or service should be based on figures and data.

That might be the case in the world of finance and accounting, but not in marketing. Marketers love to experiment and usually end up with accidental products. And when they surface, they seldom shout to the four winds.

accidental product marketing

The shocker: Different is actually good for Accidental Product Marketing!

Common sense says that a product that has been created due to errors and does not meet the demands of the consumers is bound to crumble as no one would bother wasting their money on it.

Well, prepare to be shocked, because brands can benefit greatly from sharing with the customer the mistakes that are in the bowels of their products.

How so? You might ask.

Well, according to a report published by the Harvard Business Review, the consumer tends to perceive the ‘accidental products’ as more unique and much more valuable precisely because of their unique characteristics. To carry out this research, their authors (Taly Reich, Daniella Kupor and Rosanna K. Smith) performed a series of experimental studies.

1. The first study – Accidental chocolate

In the first study, the researchers gave consumers a choice between a new taste of chocolate and extra money.

Before making a decision, the participants were informed that the new taste of chocolate had been the result of an unintentional error of the chef.

And with this knowledge to their credit, consumers were more predisposed to opt for the new taste of chocolate than for the extra money.

The only thing that drove them to try out the accidental chocolate was just their curiosity. They did not care about the money; they just wanted to try something new before anyone else did.

To take this accidental product in the market, you need a social presence. If you follow the best social marketing tactics, surely, it makes different.

2. The second study – Adulterated art

In the second study, the researchers confronted the participants with a work of art deliberately “adulterated” by a very remarkable stain.

However, after letting the participants know clearly that the stain on the work of art had been the result of an unintentional error of its artist. They were much more predisposed to buy it and even to disburse more money for it.

People were willing to pay extra money to buy something that actually had a stain on it. In their eyes, that little imperfection is what made the artwork so perfect to spend money on and flaunt it in front of their friends and family.

3. The third study – Raw song

In a third study, the researchers put a new hip-hop song in public. The producer/singer’s breath had accidentally “sneaked” into the remix.

People were amazed and attracted to this breathing sound and were inclined to actually pay to buy a copy, despite the accident which made the song raw and unprofessional.

You can also read the case study of Starbucks – Marketing – the sole reason behind Starbucks success.


So, what can we learn from these three studies? Are people tired of eating the same flavors of chocolate over and over again? Have the rich art collectors become desperate for the unique type of artwork? Has the majority’s taste in music dropped significantly low?

Well, no.

The simple conclusion we can derive from these studies is that the products created by mistake can potentially earn a whole lot value in the eyes of the consumers.

And that is simply because they possess some unique characteristics that instantly captivate the consumers, and forces them to at least try them once. And that’s all a new product needs to kick-off in the market.

Most companies avoid making public the mistakes involved in the creation of their products. They fear that the consumer will perceive them negatively and they will get backlash from the public.

However, in the light of these studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review, it seems that the feared (non-deliberate) “stumbling” in product creation can be highly profitable when advertised, thereby amplifying consumer interest in them.

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So, if you’re a marketer and want to indulge in Accidental Product Marketing, do not be afraid to experiment. And do not be afraid to make mistakes.

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