Overlooked market

The area on a positioning map with preferences but no brands has not been defined.

It can be called an overlooked market, where consumer-recognized needs and wants are not currently being met.

Did you ever go to look for a product that you bought for years only to find it had disappeared? Or perhaps you went to repurchase a favorite product but found that it had been "improved" in ways that made it less beneficial for you, not more. These circumstances, and others, lead to what can be called overlooked markets.

An overlooked (or "natural") market is a market for consumer-recognized needs and wants that is not currently being served. They arise from companies either deciding to move away from a market deliberately or moving away from a market without recognizing it—at least not until it may be too late.

Anyone who has tried to take a photo with a point and shoot camera in bright light or under conditions where a photo needs to be taken quickly knows that an optical viewfinder is essential. (We would never have been able photograph the bear that loped in front of our vehicle by locating it on a display.) But since people are seduced by ever-larger LCD displays on cameras, which leave little room for viewfinders, the optical viewfinder is disappearing. You have a legitimate need and want for an optical viewfinder, but soon all cameras may be made without them. Clearly there is a business opportunity for this overlooked market.

For another example, consider product improvement. Not too many years ago personal hair dryers had about 750-850 watts of power. Millions of them were sold as they apparently met consumers' needs and wants. Then hair dryers had 1000, then 1250, then 1500-1900 watts of power. Did we miss something about the evolution of hair? A barber told us that these high-wattage hair dryers are more like blow torches. Sure you can turn them on low, but today's low is yesterday's high.

Every new version of an automoble introduced is "longer and more powerful." Someone bought and was happy with those smaller cars. Ironically, for every larger vehicle a overlooked market forms for new smaller vehicles. And history repeats itself: no sooner are all of the small cars large than a new brand of small cars is introduced, which themselves get larger over time. About the only real danger for an automobile manufacturer in this regard is to box yourself in with a sequential naming scheme. After all, what is smaller than a Mercedes A class or a BMW 1 series?

Want to print out some of these pages and highlight them with a traditional yellow highlighter? Forget that since today's highlighters are all day-glow colors. Some little company could make money by simply bringing back yellow!

Another way to think about overlooked markets is that they describe preferences on a positioning map without nearby brands. These preferences are a overlooked market that represent real needs and wants that some company can try to meet.

To summarize, overlooked markets have these characteristics:

  • "Consumer-recognized" because the needs and wants are apparent to consumers.
  • Typically reflect physical and psychological needs that do not change over time.
  • Often are markets that once were served to consumers' satisfaction.
  • Could never have been served, but need or want always apparent.
  • Represent market opportunities, but the term "marketing opportunity" applies to other situations as well.

The reasons for overlooked markets include:

  • Constant preferences
  • Budget constraints
  • Budget irrelevance (consumers willing to pay more for specializaton)
  • Optimal preferences

All overlooked markets are market opportunities and companies that recognize this can do good business in them. It's quite easy to find examples of consumer overlooked markets where products once were offered—and importantly were successful!—but are inexplicably dropped.

Summary of the marketing logic

  • Look for overlooked markets.
  • Create products to serve them.


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