I haven’t really thought much about tampons lately.
To be fair, that’s not a revelation considering that I’m not the target customer. Outside of a successful tampon art phase I went through in the ’90s, I haven’t had the need to buy any.
And now tampons tare inspiring me to think about the concept of ‘black market loyalty.” A recent story on CNNMoney talks about a black market that has popped up over a shortage of o.b. tampons. Due to some issue at Johnson & Johnson, the tampons have been off the shelf for awhile which has lead to some online profiteering. According to the story, four boxes of o.b. tampons that retail just shy of $30 sold on eBay for $130.
It reminds me of the classic Seinfeld episode “The Sponge” where Elaine stocks up on contraceptive sponges that have been discontinued. eBay was only three months old when the show aired and still a long way from being a household name so Elaine had to scour New York City until she found a drugstore that stocked them. She bought a case and then strategized her promiscuity around “sponge worthy” candidates.
Both the real and fictional examples highlight the passion that products can create and a new aspiration for businesses. If your product disappeared, would a black market develop around it? That’s “black market loyalty.”
If the answer is no, then in your next redesign, upgrade or new model launch, use the concept of “black market loyalty” and customer passions as the filter for new products and features. A good place to start is with basic problem solving. o.b. Tampons focus on portability and providing comfort during an uncomfortable time.
Of course if you’re successful, you need to make sure supply meets demand, but that’s a good problem to have.