No Product or Service is Flawless - Make Flaws a Non-Issue

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As business people, we know that every product or service has flaws; even our own. However, the natural tendency is to hide them, don't talk about them, or hope no one notices so you don't have to explain them.

Believe it or not, this is the worst thing you can do. Perceived flaws can become an asset. Or at least, no one can use them against you if you bring them out first.

Hi Bob!

Again, that was a fantastic presentation you gave at the TCWebPros last week!


Maryann King
emkay & co

Americans aren't stupid

Another fact to consider. Everyone knows that all products have some flaws. Whenever you try to sell something as having no flaws (as most products and services are sold in this country), Americans are immediately suspicious. And rightfully so. That is why they react so angrily when the flaws come out. That is the reason we live in a litigious society.

It's not the fault of lawyers or government or consumers. It's our own fault for not letting people know that our products or services aren't perfect but they will do an admirable job at their strengths.

Make perceived flaws a non-issue

How many of you remember when Carl Stokes ran for mayor of Cleveland? At the time, very few blacks had run for mayor of a major city. His political advisors knew that if Stokes was to win, they would have to make his race a non-issue fast. So they ran a full page ad in the newspaper:

Don't Vote for a Negro.
Vote for a man.
Vote for ability.
Vote for character.
Vote for a leader.
A man who can attack the problems and solve them.
A man who can rally the people of Cleveland .
Carl Stokes

Carl Stokes won the election based on his stance on the issues and his abilities as a politician. His competition's greatest weapon, prejudice, had been taken away from them.

How can you turn your product or service's percieved flaws into non-issues?

I go, Yugo, we all go…

Let's consider the Yugo. You remember the Yugo don't you? It died a quick and well deserved death. Another one of Malcolm Bricklin's less brilliant ideas.

It was an ugly little box with so many flaws the mind boggles. To begin with, a little history:

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Where did that piece of junk come from?

The communists in Yugoslavia decided in the Eighties that they needed their own car industry. So they bought a design from Fiat that hadn't been produced in ten years along with all the old tooling, dusted it off, and started producing the cars locally. Hooray! Yugoslavia had its very own car.

Malcolm Bricklin figured there had to be a market for these incredibly cheap cars in the US . He was wrong. However, with the right marketing, he might have been able to carve out a niche market for the things.

A truly flawed product

Its two biggest flaws were its incredible lack of power and its ugliness. (The third flaw, like all things Fiat, was that it would break if you even looked at it funny. But that's a flaw that no amount of advertising or marketing can fix.)

However, there are Americans who don't care what their car looks like or how fast it is. They just want transportation one step up from public transportation.

The sales pitch, warts and all…

Here's the commercial I would have written:

Scene: Malcolm Bicklin's office. Mr. Bricklin behind his desk and two sales people in front of him, scratching their heads.

Sales: “But Mr. Bricklin, who would buy the car?”

Bricklin: “Well…”

Cut to: a shot of a Mustang or Corvette blowing off a Yugo at a traffic light. The Yugo smugly drives by as the speeder gets a ticket.

Sales: “Okay, so they're not looking for a race car.”

Bricklin: “And of course…”

Cut to: a shot of the Yugo on a stand at the Museum of Modern Art surrounded by admirers oohing and aahing.

Sales: “Okay, sir, they're not looking for the sexiest car on the road. So what are they looking for?”

Cut to: Bang! A shot of the Yugo with a huge sign overhead that says: The Cheapest New Car Sold in America ! The Yugo.

Selling on price

Usually, when you sell on price, everybody loses. But in this case, that was the car's only selling point so it should have been screamed from the rooftops. Because there are people who will buy the boringest car in the world if it will just get them to where they want to go as cheaply as possible.

However, a caveat: Marketing people know that no amount of great marketing or advertising will sell junk. A few flaws are acceptable and expected because no product is perfect. Junk deserves what it gets. A quick trip into the Yugo Hall of Shame.

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