March Madness

As I sit and write this, a number of my co-workers and I are huddled in our conference room, watching the initial NCAA College Basketball games.   It’s that time of year again. May the "madness" begin.

In the madness, you have to find calm.

Lupita Nyong'o

March Madness!  That time of year when it seems even the most casual sports fan has an interest in the games and the surrounding excitement.   was thinking earlier about how the tournament parallels various aspects of business.   There are many areas actually, but for the next few minutes, let’s look at the similarities between a team heading into the tournament – and its eventual success or failure – and a product being launched – and its success or failure that follows.

Heading into the tournament, there are certain teams that many feel shouldn’t really even be there.   They of course start out playing against teams that are far better than them. But invariably, there are certain of these teams that win (can you say UAB or Georgia State?), and the Cinderella is born!   Certain product launches have a similar experience.   They may not be expected to perform well, but given the right combination of ad support, market situations and dare I say, luck, the underdog survives the initial launch.   The next stage requires a little more of the same from the previous “round” and before you know it you’ve broken through into the Sweet Sixteen, or the top 25% of the entrants.   Of course, there are also plenty of teams/products that survive this far because they are just plain that good.   No surprises for them, everyone would agree they belong at the top.

By the time the next couple of games/tests come about, some momentum has been built and the team/product has probably gained additional support thanks to the positive news and publicity.   At this stage, it’s very important to be able to sustain whatever momentum was gained and continue to execute whatever aspects of their “game” that helped them to be successful in the earlier rounds.   It is harder for the Cinderella, or underdog, to get past this stage. The competition is even stronger and to whatever extent “luck” helped them before, that will be harder to replicate.   The teams/products that get past this phase however, ending up in the Final Four (the top 6% of all entrants), are all legitimate contenders and will continue to be respected even after this particular tournament or product launch is over or has passed.

For the teams/products that continue to win and get to the finals, they have truly established themselves as leaders and it will be that much easier to be successful the next time a tournament or launch comes around.   While everyone wants to win each round and be the champion, there is a lot to be said for getting all the way to the final, even if you don’t come out on top.   The publicity and buzz that has been brought to your team/school or product/company is worth far more than any kind of traditional advertising could probably elicit.

So when you think about it… while the average consumer probably does not get as excited about a new product launch as they do when they start watching March Madness, you can bet that the stakeholders in that product – brand managers, product developers, corporate executives – are excited about it!   And the stakes for them are probably a lot higher than for the casual fan rooting for his or her bracket to remain un-busted.   And that’s where we come in,  as we provide our ResearchWISE® consulting and services, we will be rooting just as hard as our clients for their products to win the championship!

~ Bud Sanders

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