Can diversification be disastrous?
As the saying goes, if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Therefore, it is with great interest that we look at recent controversy surrounding two extremely well-known brands: Cadbury and Marvel.What eggs-actly is the issue?
The former has hit the headlines – receiving criticism from both the Prime Minister and Archbishop of York – because they have chosen to drop the word Easter from the name of the annual Cadbury egg hunts at National Trust properties. Instead of the traditional title of ‘Easter Egg Trail’ it will now be called the ‘Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt.’
Prime Minister Theresa May, the daughter of a vicar, stated that, in her opinion: “the stance they have taken is absolutely ridiculous. Easter is a very important festival for the Christian faith for millions across the world.”
York’s Archbishop, John Sentamu, added that Quaker John Cadbury, who founded the firm in 1824, “was renowned for his religious beliefs and would not condone dropping the word Easter. (The decision is) tantamount to spitting on his grave.”
It’s interesting, then, to read on and discover that Quakers don’t celebrate traditional church festivals such as Easter, because they see every day as “a chance for new beginnings for all of us, love and forgiveness, restorative justice and joy.
Oh, that and the fact that both Cadbury and The National Trust are still using the word Easter in all their promotional literature for the hunt.
Marvel at the confusion
In other news, David Gabriel, vice president of sales at Marvel Comics, claims that “readers are ‘turning their noses up’ at diversity and don’t ‘want female characters out there.’”
Over recent years, they have introduced more female, gay and non-white characters, with several of them being new versions of old characters, including a “female Thor, a mized-race Spider-Man, a black teenager who took over the Iron Man story and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. Iceman also came out as gay.”
Again, read a little further and we discover that fans contradict the Marvel concensus on declining sales is diversity. Instead, consumer feedback states that “it’s actually rebooted and complicated storylines that put them off.”
One Twitter users commented: “Marvel, if you want diversity, create new characters that represent us minorities. Don’t replace the ones we already love.”
So, what’s to be gained from the changes in both camps?
Super, or not?
For Marvel, customer comments must have pointed to the need for more diversity in the characters from a race, gender and sexuality perspective. (You’d assume so, anyway, because presumably they wouldn’t have done it without carrying out any user research).
This is understandable: even comics needs to be relatable by all their target groups to help widen audience reach. And it has worked. As one Twitter user commented: “Dear Marvel, a few years ago I didn’t read superhero comics.
Now I read nearly all of your diverse content. Keep the diversity. Thanks.”
You’d think then, that this would have increased sales rather than sending them into declined.
However, it appears as though they didn’t spare much thought to existing loyal customers and it is evident their audience consulting stopped short.
They obviously didn’t elaborate on the question of ‘do you want to see more diversity in the characters?’ Had they done so, the user reviews would have painted a bigger picture and Marvel may have thought twice about simply re-vamping existing characters and introduced complicated storylines.
They may have also focused more on product pricing – the price tag certainly didn’t go without comment.
Don’t talk about…
For Cadbury and the National Trust, though, it’s maybe not so cut and dried.
Yes, changing the title of the egg hunt so it doesn’t include the word Easter may attract a more diverse audience, which of course is highly beneficial in helping to raise brand awareness (though we assume that anyone in the country over the age of ten who hasn’t heard of Cadbury has probably been living under a rock).
Though they are still using the word Easter in promotional materials produced by both organisations, so it does make you wonder how effective the omission in the title really is.
Then, of course, there is one fact we are all very aware of: religion is one of those crucial topics that should never be discussed and, if you choose to do so, so you’re lining yourself up to be shot down from all sides.
No matter what customer feedback was received, there would definitely be a division of opinion as to the inclusion and importance of a religious festival.
It will be interesting to see if Cadbury and the National Trust carry out a user experience review after the weekend to monitor whether or not the use of the word mars people’s enjoyment of the event. We assume not. It is, after all, just supposed to be fun for everyone.
The question is this though: would there have been this uproar and uncertainty for either brand if they had actually done some user experience consulting before implementing the changes?
The moral of the story…
No matter what side of the fence you sit on in either the ‘egg hunts and religion’ or ‘diversity in comic books’ camp, there is definitely a lesson in there for all of us.
The crucial element for all businesses is to gather user feedback before implementing new ideas and don’t forget the customer satisfaction surveys once changes have been introduced.
And don’t just focus on reaching new consumers. Remember, you may already have an army of loyal customers who like things just the way they are: make sure you aren’t losing them whilst trying to gain new ground.
Get in touch with The Monachie Project team for assistance in analysing user experience and gaining business insights based on consumer connections.