The purpose of market research has not changed for over 100 years as per Professor Ron Weber, and, while the methods may have changed the reasoning is no different. Really, it seems like a fairly basic concept, and not one that needs a team of marketing experts to explain the importance of. If you want to sell a product to people, find out what they might think and what they might want. Simple, right? So where, then, was the market research for the Shake Weight? Now to back up for a second, for anyone who is unsure of what the Shake Weight is, their advertisement is here.
So again, I ask, where was the market research for the Shake Weight? The Shake Weight has been (rather unsurprisingly) ridiculed for its rather, ahem, suggestive movement. While the creator, Johann Verheem says that it really is not suggestive if you use it properly, let’s be honest. It is suggestive. It does not take long to see it and if it is not immediately obvious to you, there are plenty of spoofs that will make it very obvious (just search “shake weight” on youtube or click this link for the more PG talk show clips). Pretty easy to see why the marketing was ridiculed so heavily.
That, however, is the issue. Without being able to ask the creator directly about their market research techniques, quotes from Verheem leave a lot of questions. The only form of market research he mentions before the ads were run, was simply the opinions of the actors and actresses on set. Now, without pretending to be a marketing or psychology guru, it does seem to be fairly common sense that if you pay people to smile and use your product, that is probably what they are going to do. Actors and actresses that have not expressed doubts about a product are not an affirmation of your product; they are just looking out for number 1. What reason could they possibly have for being honest and telling you “your new exercise tool looks dirty”? The best they could hope for is a pat on the back and the pay they were due, but the worst would be to forfeit their wages and be let go. So, again, why would they risk their livelihood to let you know your dumbbell looks like you should be working out with the door locked and the lights down low.
Now, in all fairness to the Shake Weight, the first release of the commercial was supposed to be run as a focus group sort of idea, and it really wasn’t supposed to go viral, or so at least says Verheem (Full interview here). Still, for a product that was meant for nationwide release, surely more research should have been done before allowing any advertisement of the product to go public. This commercial was seen, spoofed, and ridiculed on nationwide talk shows, Youtube videos, Vine videos, and almost every other way you can imagine, even making an appearance on South Park. How could they not know that would happen? Surely if they had done any research whatsoever at least one person would have pointed out the obvious.
Really there are only two possibilities. The first is what I’ve already mentioned. They forgot to do any research, and then were ridiculed for making a product and advertisement so laden with sexual innuendo that there really was no other possible outcome. Scientifically it is suspect and not recommended on WebMD, and, all of the uproar may have come, as Verheem said, by surprise. The other, however, is just the opposite. Verheem has no real reason to tell the truth when it comes to his market research, and it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that none was done. He would, however, have every reason to lie if he wanted the video to go viral. It seems much more plausible to me that Verheem did do his research, and simply decided that, based on what was said, he could make a lot more sales by exploiting its comedy factor to spread the name. This, is, of course, just speculation but a creative response to market data may have been exactly what the Shake Weight needed. “Any press is good press,” it is said, and with $40 million in revenue already, Verheem may have created the most effective (if inappropriate) marketing campaign the fitness industry by simply using that research creatively.
-Garrett Siu (garrettsiu)
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