Don’t Be Afraid of Upsetting People – A Negative Reaction is Better than no Reaction

South Park is a highly successful cartoon sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central TV network. The show was launched in 1997 and quickly became notorious for its rude language, minimalist characters and black, surreal satire. It was aimed at an adult audience and poked fun at a wide range of topical or taboo subjects. South Park has received many accolades, including five Primetime Emmy Awards. It is the third longest-running cartoon series in the U.S. behind The Simpsons and Arthur. Yet it was very nearly cancelled when initial tests showed that most people did not like it.

Parker and Stone met at a film class at the University of Colorado in 1992. They developed a number of humorous animated productions and came to the attention of a Comedy Central executive who commissioned a pilot episode for a proposed animated series. The pair spent three months creating the pilot episode which was called, ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’. When it was shown to test audiences the results were dire. It provoked a strong reaction – mostly negative. The majority of viewers disliked it and it was particularly unpopular with women. However, a minority audience, mainly young men, really liked it.

The household goods giant Reckitt Benckiser developed a new cleaning product. Before launching the product they carried out consumer tests. Most consumers in the tests did not like the product but a minority (often men) really liked it.

Bland products upset no-one but delight no-one and they get lost in the welter of goods on offer. “

It is no good launching a ‘me too’ product which is similar to or even slightly better than most other products on the market. As Seth Godin stresses in his book, Purple Cow, it is more important to be different than to be better.

To read full blog about Don’t Be Afraid of Upsetting People – A Negative Reaction is Better than no Reaction visit Innovation Management.

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