Why – despite overt interest and positive PR – are businesses not buying our cardboard desk?
It’s a framing problem: Furniture is permanent, cardboard is temporary – so business procurement don’t want to be seen making a ‘silly’ choice. We need to reposition the product.
Everybody loved the cardboard desk concept. Even Esquire magazine had featured them before we were commissioned.
The desks were being ‘sold’ by an experienced corporate furniture salesperson to procurement managers in big businesses in pre-agreed one-to-one meetings. The desks are 100% cradle-to-cradle recyclable desks, at 1/10th of the cost of current desks, they support a tremendous amount weight, are fire resistant, and can have prints on the surface. They fulfil all the expected corporate safety and use standards; who wouldn’t want them? It wasn’t as simple as that, it seemed.
The procurement mangers would be positive in the meeting, request time to think, then call as soon as the salesperson was on their way home and order one or two desks for their home – still not committing to a corporate purchase. Then the trail would go cold.
Together with our client we ran a workshop with experts in B2B office furniture procurement.
We were able to guide and extract information about personal disposition of procurement specialists, and the business situation in which they operate.
It became apparent the cardboard desks were challenging the reputation of the procurement managers, because cardboard implies flimsiness. They were being asked to not only purchase a cardboard desk, but to turn around to the board, and the employees, and personally commit to the replacement of ‘permanent’ wooden and metal furniture with a ‘temporary’ cardboard version. We codified this as ‘furniture is permanent, and cardboard is temporary’.
This contrasts heavily with the purchase of a cardboard desk for their own home (often for their wives/husbands or children) – they are masters/mistresses of their own domain, there are few reputation challenges there.
It looked like a cognitive dissonance problem – where procurement managers’ automatic/reflexive/System 1 and deliberative/reflective/System 2 thinking disagree. Automatic/reflexive/System 1 is characterised as being intuitive, rapid, associative (cardboard is temporary!). Deliberative/reflective/System 2 is rule-governed and calculating (it’s a great value product).
With this insight we could build a practical model of influences. This map is shown full size below.
The less attractive small volume markets are relatively easy to sell to if you push the right buttons (utility, recycle-ability, or fashion) because they reflexively agree with the recyclable/different angle. But they are small volume.
The larger volume markets are harder (impossible as it stood before we worked on it), so we’ve mapped how to remove, reframe, or ‘agree with’ the instinctive response to get a non-dissonant, non-reputation affecting decision from office equipment procurement managers.