I am aware that I have poor taste when it comes to clothes –– I just don’t have an instinct about what other people think looks sane. My younger son described my style as a “six-year-old with a sophisticated eye for taffeta.” I bought my older son clothes that I saw other kids his age wearing which meant he wore brand names like deflector shields so he could avoid being associated with bad taste.

It turns out that I was not so crazy. Bad taste brings bad karma.

Market researchers have found there are parts of the US where you never want your new product to succeed –– zip codes that have such bad taste that they can practically predict that your product will fail.

I like to think that we could all identify the products that would flop. But maybe it’s harder than I realize. For example, Cheetos lip balm flopped not because it is the most disgusting idea ever, but because it really did taste like Cheetos. So it made people thirsty all the time and the water took off the lip balm.

The list of failed products is scary in its tastelessness. And the proximity principle is real. Living in the wrong zip code could mean your kids grow up to wear the product fail equivalent to Harley Davidson Eau de Toilette. This is tongue-in-cheek but only sort of.

I think it’s shocking that there are zip codes that can predict failure in taste. I knew zip codes predicted education, money, and politics. But taste? It makes me want to try harder to have my son fit in visually with people who are unremarkable.

And frankly, since school does not predict outcomes in adult life. If I were picking a school district, I’d be more concerned about avoiding one of these black holes of taste than I would be about avoiding a low-performing school.

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2 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    If I was neurotypical before I read this post, I’m not now. I read this post when it was first published but didn’t “get it” initially so thought it was rather odd. Now I’m laughing out loud. This post read a second time while going to and reading the links brings it all together. The ‘The Surprising Breadth of Harbingers of Failure’ market research could be an SNL skit. The USA Today article was fun to read as it brought back some memories like Microsoft Bob. There are others I wasn’t aware of such as Life Savers soda. Ugh. If I didn’t read this blog, I would have never associated marketing failures (harbingers of failure – bad taste) with bad school districts. Now I’m still thinking about it.

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