Having product-market fit means you have a product that satisfies a strong demand, and your business is selling a product or service that someone wants or needs. Most often, it takes time for businesses to achieve product-market fit, whether that’s because the product needs to be adjusted or because the business hasn’t quite figured out who their customer is yet. And sometimes, businesses or products, just never get there.
So today, we thought we’d share some of our favorite examples of product-market fit, and a few of our favorite fails:
Denim fabric was originally created and manufactured in Nîmes, France in the 1800s. But it took almost a century for the fabric to be put towards a very practical use: work pants. Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss patented the process of adding rivets to strengthen denim pants in 1873, and the blue jean was born. Blue jeans had a strong demand from people who needed sturdy workwear: miners and laborers.
Over time, blue jeans became a staple of most modern closets. Now, the market for blue jeans is pretty much anyone who wears clothing, and consumers around the world enjoy wearing jeans for their durability and aesthetic.
Since its launch in 1966, Toyota has sold over 44 million Corollas in 150 countries, and the model represents 1 in 5 cars that Toyota sells around the world. Customers who buy new and used Corollas are looking for affordable, reliable and fuel-efficient sedans. The Corolla even inspired an ode about its longevity, which was so relatable and popular that the internet deemed it one of the best of Craigslist.
After file sharing networks, like Napster, collapsed, Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek saw an opportunity. He formed Spotify to make it easy for customers to listen to music legally, and formed partnerships with the music industry. Spotify fine tuned its model, offering customers a legal way to listen to the music they wanted to hear in exchange for hearing ads or paying a monthly subscription fee, before expanding outside of their home market. Now, the company has almost 300 million users worldwide, including 138 million paying subscribers.
Juicero was a $400 internet-connected juice machine that customers could use with the company’s pre-packaged bags of fruits and vegetables. As you can tell by the verb tense in our last sentence, the company and its product didn’t last very long.
Investors and reporters figured out that Juicero’s pre-packaged bags could be squeezed by hand. This eliminated the need for their pricey machine, and meant there was no real differentiation between their product and other juice products. Shortly after this revelation came out, the company announced it was shutting down.
The original Segway, a two-wheeled transportation device, was released in December 2001 and many thought it would change the way people got around cities. Instead, the company failed to find product-market fit with a broad customer base, and ended up with a niche market in private security and tourist experiences - yes, we’re talking about mall cops and city tours.
The company was sold to Ninebot in 2015, and limped along until Ninebot announced that the original two-wheeled Segway would end production in 2020. Though, in a bit of a silver lining, Ninebot will continue to use the Segway brand in the future.
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