Yogurt is Not the Answer: Cosmo’s Most Confusing Product Failure

Cosmopolitan is one of the most well known women’s lifestyle magazines in the world. It has a specific audience (women ages 18–24), a recognizable brand (fashion, career, sex), and it has found success offering exclusive products that support these aspects of a woman’s life — namely lingerie, home decor, and perfume. These attempts to diversify the Cosmo brand have had varying degrees of success, but make sense for the company and its audience. Offering these “Goodies” (as they are listed on Cosmopolitan.com), is a way for women to expand the Cosmo experience to other aspects of their life.

In 1999, Cosmo decided they wanted to take this expansion another step further. They decided to put out an exclusive line of…yogurt? After survey data at the time stated that a high percentage of Britons used edibles during intimacy, the company decided to find a niche within the healthy food sector by releasing a line of yogurt and cheese products in partnership with MD Foods. Unfortunately, the connection that Cosmo made was not shared by it’s target market. The yogurt was discontinued after a brief 18 months.

Why did Cosmo Yogurt Fail?

While there is not a lot of information on the details of Cosmo’s failed venture, it is clear that the product faced a signficant lack of connection to the Cosmo brand and its other products. In the end, the brand extension (or piggyback marketing) attempted by Cosmo was too much of a long shot. Their attempt to tie dairy to sex was just too far-fetched for most people, within and outside of their target market. At the time, piggybacking was also the only marketing strategy applied to the launch of the product. It seems that Cosmo did not reach out to their readers, nor offer additional campaigns to promote the yogurt — relying solely on the popularity of the magazine to carry their sales.

Brand extension like this does not always fail but it is risky, especially for launching products in a new and competitive market. In Cosmo’s case, the spin-off product and the lack of awareness around its users was a fatal combination. In their launch of the dairy line, Cosmo focused too closely on their target market of women 18–34, failing to acknowledge that yogurt is eaten by people of all genders and ages. Additionally, the Cosmo yogurt line was more expensive that it’s dairy competitors. Thus, leaving customers with an overpriced product created by a brand that had no credibility in the food industry, much less the dairy market.

All in all, Cosmo seems to have skipped many of the most important steps in design thinking as they created their product, most glaringly - they failed to understand their users. Obviously, the company came back from their failed venture and their brand has remained intact to this day. So, while yogurt was not the answer in the end, I hope that Cosmo has learned to ask better questions about how to engage with the wants, needs, and desires of the users they serve.

Sources:

Brook, S. “Spin-off brands more likely to fail.” The Guardian. 7 September, 2004. Viewed 08 February 2021. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/sep/07/marketingandpr

Marmite, V. “A Cosmopolitan Failure.” Marzipan And Marmite. 9 November 2011. Viewed 08 February 2021.
http://marzipanandmarmite.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/a-cosmopolitan-failure/

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