Hit Products That Confound Marketers

When Samsung last September unveiled a smartwatch called Galaxy Gear, it was hoping for lively business from people on the go like corporate executives, stockbrokers and couriers. They thought it would be the perfect gadget to meet their needs to make calls, check their e-mails and exchange text messages while on the move.

But the reality confounded marketers. Executives shunned the device because it offers no privacy in phone conversations as the speaker's voice is audible to anyone within earshot. Couriers did not find the device useful either since they had to put it close to their mouths in order to communicate, which is dangerous while driving a motorcycle.

Instead, fitness buffs loved the Galaxy Gear. More and more avid joggers bought the device so they could make calls and listen to music while running. Samsung hastily adjusted its marketing strategy to these new target customers.

A Samsung spokesman said the follow-up Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear Fit have functions allowing users to monitor their heart rates and record how many paces they've walked.

◆ Unexpected Success

The response of customers is often hard to predict, and sometimes a product ends up gaining explosive popularity with a totally unexpected group of consumers.

On the one hand that is a failure of marketing, but on the other it opens up new markets.

Another example is the popularity of tablet PCs among consumers in their 50s and 60s. Superstore chain E-Mart analyzed tablet PC sales patterns and learned that consumers in their 50s and 60s accounted for 30 percent of purchases last year, practically the same stake as buyers in their 40s (29 percent) and 30s (31 percent). Compared to 2012, purchases by customers in their 50s and 60s jumped more than five-fold.

Noh Eun-jung at E-Mart said, "At first, we thought they were buying them as gifts, but a closer look showed strong demand from senior citizens who had problems seeing the small texts on smartphones."

Cosmetics company Amore Pacific recently came out with a foundation for men after learning that many middle-aged Korean men use their wife's foundations instead of sun block when golfing or mountain climbing.

Lee Hoi-bok at Amore Pacific said sales of foundation for men were three times higher than sales of sunblock during the first quarter of this year. "We were surprised to see that middle-aged men were just as concerned about their skin as young, fashion-conscious people."

◆ Swift Response

Marketing experts said the success or failure of such unforeseen sales patterns hinges on how quickly and flexibly a company adopts to the situation. It is crucial to quickly analyze initial sales data and reflect the findings in production and advertising.

Chang Dae-ryun at Yonsei University said, "A market is like a living organism and it is really tough to gain an accurate grasp. Businesses must constantly monitor sales trends and gain a more accurate picture of the target customer group."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 03, 2014 08:23 KST