Change is a good thing?

Did you catch the question mark in the headline?  The old saying is that the only thing that is constant is change.  And I agree that companies must continuously find ways to provide better products and services and to keep up with their competition.

But I also have to say that change for change sake is a waste of time.  Leo Burnett said (and I am paraphrasing here) that companies should talk to consumers when they have news.  So brand companies go off and try to create news and excitement.  And that is fine, when it is meaningful news and excitement.  Unfortunately, a good portion of the time, the changes have little consumer benefit. 

Take for example a product I used to love (and those who know me personally can attest to my love affair with this product) – Wrigley’s Big Red Gum (r). 

 

I was a major purchasor of this gum for probably more than 10 years.  And over the years they have made several changes to this product.  Here are a few that I can remember as well as my thoughts on the benefit:

Flavor changes:  They change the flavor on this gum about every 18 months.  And each flavor change gets worse.  I don’t know what they are doing to taste test this stuff, but they need to go back to ground zero.   (Need I remind you of the New Coke debacle?)  BAD CHANGE.

Removing the paper that separated the sticks in multi-packs:  This was to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly. Now the sticks fall out of the packaging, which stinks.  But I will give on the environmental issues. GOOD CHANGE.

Adding Aspartame to the Product: Aspartame makes the product cheaper as they have to use less to attain the same level of sweetness.  It is also cheaper to transport.  Did they pass on any of the cost savings to customers?  Nope.  Did they reduce the calories on the gum at the same time? Nope?  Was this the only gum on the market without Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners in it before they made the change?  Yes.  Did it make the taste better?  No.  BAD CHANGE

Switching to paper wrappers from foil:  Again this was to help the environment.  GOOD CHANGE.

Package design changes: A big waste of time.  No consumer impact what so ever.  BAD CHANGE.

Switching from 18 piece multi-packs to 15 piece multi-packs:  They covered this change up with a new multi-pack design that opens like a cigarette box.  The pack is really not that great and the value decline was made worse by an immediate price increase on the product. BAD CHANGE.

I used to work for a brand company and I understand when you have profit targets to meet and demands from the retailers for more margin.  I get it that companies have to find cost savings and periodically have to raise prices to increase shareholder value.  And I know that  they do the math to estimate how many customers they will lose when they make these changes and they do the changes anyway because the results are still net additive to their bottom line.

But seriously, these companies need to find more innovative ways to accomplish these goals.  Because if you don’t, in the long run, the only change these companies are going to see is a continuous decline in buyers.

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