Doctrine of Equivalents

Since I was talking patents last time, I'll pick up on another patent concept and treat it in a similar fashion.

Manufacturers and retailers often make old dogs play new tricks. After a product has been on the market for a while, and popularity starts to wane, there has to be some type of strategy to recapture the lost loyalists and gain new product users. We're often bombarded by products with boldly-worded labels like New! Improved! 33% more! But is something really new and improved? Or is the new and improved really worth the extra price, which is often sneaked in?

One particularly fascinating strategy is the "less is more" strategy. I'm sure we've all seen things that come in mega rolls or higher-concentrated forms, things that purport to contain just as much as the old product, but fit in a smaller package. Toilet paper, paper towels, and liquid detergent are products that are commonly "reinvented" in this manner. My question is this: are they truly equal? If they are equal in terms of the amount of materials put into the product, are they equal in efficacy?

I believe the answer lies in the portion size you would normally use. I find that if I'm in the habit of using a larger portion of something, it may take a while before I am able to adjust. If I don't adjust in time, I'll end up losing a lot more product than it's worth. However, if you're in a habit of using a fairly small portion of something, the extra absorbance, power, or other specialty attributes will make the consumer feel pretty good.

Another problem with higher concentrations is that the measurements will have to be more precise in order to maximize value. If your measuring skills isn't too great, it is easy to overshot and lose a lot more of the product than when the product is more diffuse, and hence there is a larger margin of error.

What is your take?

1 comment:

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