Selling Blue Elephants Book Summary, by Howard R. Moskowitz

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1-Page Summary of Selling Blue Elephants

In the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham, a character named Sam-I-Am tries to persuade everyone he meets to try his “product” – green eggs and ham. They refuse. The approach of most businesspeople is similar: they make random guesses about who will like their product, then approach it by trial and error. As a result, they end up pleasing no one at all with their products or services.

The old methods of product testing are outdated. They don’t help us get the most out of our products and features, because they’re too narrow for all the choices we can make today. Rule Developing Experimentation (RDE) is a new method that allows you to learn about customer preferences even before customers know what their preferences are. To use RDE, follow these steps:

  • “To test a product, think about the problem and identify groups of features to test. For example, one variable in a soft drink might be sugar level; you can test it at 8, 10 or 12 units. Then mix and match those variables according to an experimental design. Software can create an individualized testing plan for each respondent.

  • “Show the prototypes to consumers.” – You can do this with a Web survey or by administering tests at a special facility.

(This is an example of plagiarism.)

  • “Analyze results” – Use statistical methods, such as regression analysis to relate independent variables to a dependent variable.
  • “Optimize” – Identify the combination of features that consumers rated most highly. * “Identify naturally occurring attitudinal segments of the population” – Customize the product for different population segments.


  • The methods of RDE help you develop products or messages. For example, if you tested different features in credit cards and found that older people value them more than younger ones, you can combine these features to create a special card for middle-aged professionals. You also want to apply the rules that result from your research to future projects. This will save time because instead of spending hours brainstorming new ideas, you’ll be able to focus on applying existing knowledge immediately.

Save your data for future use. Store it so you can retrieve it later, as the information may be useful. You don’t need to buy a lot of expensive equipment to do this, but you will have to invest some time and effort into setting up the system.

Flavor Matters

People who cook at home often experiment, substituting ingredients and trying new twists on old recipes. However, the food industry can’t rely on this haphazard approach to product development. It must develop products quickly and systematically in order to compete with other companies.

Most food development is done in labs rather than kitchens. Maxwell House, a division of General Foods, was one of the first companies to use this process. During the 1980s, it experimented with different flavors for coffee and found that people prefer certain flavors depending on where they live. This led Maxwell House to create different versions for each region and market them separately. The company learned from these tests which factors are more important when developing new products: color, aroma, bitterness level, burnt flavor and smoothness were all ranked higher than overall impression by consumers.

The Pickle of the Future

The Vlasic Pickle company knew that its customers were not loyal to the brand. They ate pickles as a side dish and with other foods, so they weren’t necessarily satisfied with just one flavor of pickle. With RDE (Rapid Data Exploration), Vlasic found that only about 40% of the people who ate their products were truly satisfied. Therefore, they began experimenting with new flavors in an attempt to find something for everyone. Eventually, this led them to develop a variety of different flavors including low-salt ones and very spicy ones. The spiced Zesty pickle became their bestseller of all time because it appealed to many different types of consumers.

Selling Blue Elephants Book Summary, by Howard R. Moskowitz

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