ID 11365714 © Michael Burke

Bet You a Billion Dollars You’re Wrong

Check your wallet. What percent of the dollar bills in your wallet are over 24 months old? If the answer is more than 50%, you’re the exception.

Sadly, the average dollar bill shows so much wear after only 18 months of use, that it is likely to be pulled out of circulation and replaced by a new bill. The average coin, on the other hand, stays in circulation more than 30 years. And although the coins are more expensive to produce, estimates show that by converting to dollar coins, the United States Treasury could save over $150 Million per year.

It seems only logical that the US would change over from paper bills to coins. Except for one thing: People don’t want dollar coins.

The government tried to revive the dollar coin concept in 1979, with the minting of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, but public reception was lackluster. The coin was similar in size to a US quarter and easily mistaken when giving change. A second attempt was made almost 20 years later, when Congress passed the $1 Coin Act of 1997, and the Sacagawea Dollar began flowing into circulation in 2000. Still, the American public was not impressed. And then in 2005, Congress decided that a new set of one-dollar coins should be minted, this time bearing the faces of every former president. At the time of this posting, we’ve made it to Ulysses S. Grant. And according to the Federal Reserve, over $1.2 Billion in one-dollar coins are languishing in vaults throughout the United States… unwanted by the American people, and bearing no interest for the Federal government.

No one doubts that the one-dollar coin is a good economic move for the United States. That’s not the topic of this post. But the marketing lesson, from our vantage point, seems to be clear.

When Congress made the decision to mint dollars (again), it had both research and behavioral evidence indicating that the American people didn’t want one-dollar coins. In marketing terms, the market was saying “no.” But Congress pressed forward, anyway.

In some ways, Congress’ decision is reminiscent of Detroit automakers’ insistence to continue to make cars with designs and features that Americans wouldn’t buy.

And lest we begin to throw stones, we would do well to look inside the organizations that we govern to ask ourselves if we are guilty of the same mistake. Are we listening to what our customers are saying? Are we following the recommendations that grow out of our own research? Or are we plodding forward with plans to do what we believe to be best – despite the wishes of our markets?

For that matter, are we even asking their opinion at all?