WMU News

"What were they thinking" author to speak on marketing

October 6, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A chronicler of ill-fated product launches, nationally known marketing consultant Robert McMath will ask "What Were They Thinking?" in a free public lecture from 9 to 10:30 a.m Tuesday, Oct. 13, in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University.

McMath is widely regarded as an authority on consumer product introductions and today's product trends. His recently released book, "What Were They Thinking?," is an informative and often humorous chronicle of ill-fated product launches. McMath describes the book as "marketing lessons I've learned from over 80,000 new-product innovations and idiocies."

According to the book, it now costs $20 to $50 million to launch a new product. In 1997 alone, 25,000 new products appeared. The most optimistic forecast is that only one in five will succeed and pessimists claim it's more like one out of 671. McMath says so many products fail because of corporate inertia, lack of innovation and over-reliance on focus groups.

"We've created a management environment that rewards people for constructing facades and ignoring reality," he writes.

McMath is a columnist for the periodical Brand Packaging and also is new products editor for Brand Marketing. He has appeared with David Letterman, Johnny Carson, Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee, and on "Good Morning America," "20-20" and "CNN News" as well as on news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC.

He also is director of the New Products Showcase & Learning Center in Ithaca, NY. The center houses a collection of 65,000 consumer products and provides an opportunity for those in product development to examine past winners and losers.

McMath's appearance is sponsored by Haworth Inc. of Holland, Mich., and WMU's Haworth College of Business. For more information, persons should contact Dr. James Schmotter, dean of the college, at (616) 387-5050.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

EDITORS: McMath will be available to speak with members of the media after his lecture, during a coffee break beginning at approximately 10:30 a.m. in the lobby of the Fetzer Center.

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