Some people are just attracted to failing products and researchers now have a way to connect their behavior to marketers hungry to know if they have a hit or miss on their hands.

Published in the Journal of Marketing Research, the study revealed there are a group of people who were “harbingers of failure”, meaning there is some as yet unknown link between the items they love to buy and product failure. These consumers are those who love to purchase items that usually flop and then are doomed to eternally seek out these products in the discontinued item bins at bargain basement stores, or search online at sites that specialize in discontinued items.

These “harbingers of failure,” most probably enjoyed Frito Lay Lemonade and loved the Zune, but no-one knows why.

“Certain customers systematically purchase new products that prove unsuccessful. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail.” wrote the study’s authors.

The study surveyed approximately 130,000 customers at a national convenience store chain, finding 13% of them had buying habits that foreshadowed new product flops – a product surviving less than three years. Approximately 50 percent of the products became discontinued items even before the usual time period it takes to show if a product is a seller or not.

The study’s take home message is that manufacturers should not just concentrate on the number of items being sold but on who’s doing the buying.

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