Stinky Durian

Durian is a fruit from Southeast Asia that can be charitably described as smelling like stale baby vomit. It is also revered by millions and served with pride in many Thai and Malaysian households. Most of all, it’s a great way to learn about marketing.

Songpol Somsri, a scientist fascinated by the durian, has spent decades cross-breeding more than 90 varieties of Durian and come up with a stinkless variety. No odor.

This is what most marketers do. They listen to complaints from non-customers ("why don’t you buy from us?") address them and wait for the market to grow. After all, if the people who don’t eat Durian don’t eat it because of the smell, then removing the smell ought to dramatically increase the size of your market.

Except this almost never works.

Non-durian eaters don’t have a ‘durian problem’. They aren’t standing by, fruitless, impatiently waiting for Songpol Somsri to figure out how to make a stinkless one. Nope. They’ve got cantaloupes and kiwis and all manner of other fruits to keep them busy.

The feedback you get from non-consumers is rarely useful, because the objection they give is the reason they don’t buy from you, not the thing that will cause them to affirmatively choose you.

Will stinkless durian revolutionize the marketplace? Possibly. I’ve been wrong before. But if I were a durian farmer, I’d work hard to make durian stinkier.