FEAR OF FAILURE by Pierre Duhamel


An interesting fact:  Eight out of 10 products tested at Leger are rejected by consumers.  And furthermore, most of those that pass the first market test don’t get past the second stage: winning the hearts (and opening the wallets) of consumers.  In fact, and extensive Nielsen study showed that of 12,000 consumer products launched in Europe in 2011 and 2014, only one-quarter stayed on store shelves for more than a year.

Each year, Leger tests hundreds of new ideas, inventions and products: all new ways of doing things.  This testing is an invaluable opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to try out their ideas in reality.  You can’t imagine the number of products we’ve tested that will never end up in stores.  From self-cleaning salt shakers to cat cages that hang from windows, from home clown services to plastic moth-traps that are installed at the back of appliances, sun shelters for campers, electric brooms and even a portable condom box for prostitutes.

We also tested inventions that went on to become a success.  Slushy drinks with provocative names at Couche-Tard, Nutri-Diete products, Oscar brooms, Loblaws’ President’s Choice products, Arctic Garden vegetables and even Viagra.


One day we tested a new beer or the Unibroue microbrewery.  It was the first time Unibroue used a transparent bottle for a blond beer.  We did blind taste tests, and that particular beer came in first.  Someone at a major advertising agency had the excellent idea of naming the beer “U” for Unibroue.  Consumers didn’t seem to follow their logic, however.  A blonde beer in a transparent bottle called “U” brought an unfortunate association to mind:  urine.  Potential catastrophe for the client.  Shareholders were frantic. You’re not putting our money into that.  The name makes no sense.  Do not change the beers we have now.  It won’t work.  It’s doomed.  And so on.

But then things took an interesting turn.  Participants in the discussion groups started to have fun with the idea.  Jokes were bandied about:  Je suis tombé sur mon U, a play on the beer`s name and the phrase I fell on my ass (in french of course).  It seemed the beer had a real potential if it was supported by a strong advertising campaign with a humorous angle.  Thus a successful tongue-in-cheek ad campaign was born.

Many Quebecers clients would have thrown up their hands at the risk of controversy.  But André Dion, owner of Unibroue and a talented and tenacious entrepreneur, chose to make a bold move, and sales started growing.  Unfortunately, another problem emerged over the summer.  Sunlight penetrated the transparent bottle more than brown bottles, affecting the beer’s flavour.  Some entrepreneurs would have given up at that point and taken the safest option – but Dion, never lacking new ideas for how to adapt, corrected the problem and relaunched the beer under a new name:  U2


Want to launch a new product in direct competition with a company that has 95 percent client satisfaction? One company was bold enough to do so and found resounding success.  In the mid 200s, Pierre Karl Péladeau and Robert Dépatie, directors of Videotron, threw their company into the wireless sector.  The more conservative shareholder advised them to not enter this market, where chances of success were very low; they argued that you can`t fight the competitor on his own playing field.  We disagreed.  And so the Péladeau/Dépatie team decided to change the market.

With a range of matched products (telephone, television and Internet) and one-stop-single-bill service, the company’s wireless service, which it added to its basic trio package, succeeded far beyond all expectations in its first year.

The product they marketed is basically a necessary commodity that consumers don’t think about all that much.  Everyone has a phone that works pretty well.  Why switch?  But the new package they offered changed everything.  The lesson to be learned is that if the market doesn’t have room for you….change the market.


Quebecers often play the victim.  They say it’s the fault of others when they fall – but the reality is that they’re afraid of failure.  The French, however, see failure as an end in itself, and Americans see it as an opportunity to learn and start over.  Quebecers move rapidly from American optimism to French fatalism.

When you have a good idea and there’s a real market opportunity for it, it’s essential to move forward intelligently.  Find the right innovation; test consumers’ reactions; position yourself well on the market; and deliver on your promise to clients.  The hard part of business is not succeeding, but succeeding on a daily basis.  You must take a calculated risk.  Follow the maxim ”Do the right innovation, then do the innovation right.”

Nelson Mandela, who struggled against apartheid, could easily have blamed others for the evils around him, given up and assumed struggle would be futile.  Instead he fought for justice, even in the face of 27 years of captivity.  ”Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”.  Words of wisdom that should be heeded by more entrepreneurs – especially in Quebec.

Pierre Duhamel

By |2017-10-18T10:23:13+00:00June 28th, 2017|Uncategorized, Victim|0 Comments