In 1928, a man named Otto Frederick Rohwedder created arguably one of the greatest inventions ever: pre-sliced bread. Rohwedder, a jeweller by profession, truly believed it would change the baking industry for the better. But bakers scoffed at his mechanical bread slicer – surely bread would quickly go stale if pre-sliced!?
So Rohwedder came up with a better idea: the five-foot long and three-foot high Rohwedder Bread Slicer. Not only would it slice bread, but also wrap it in a wax paper to keep it fresh. However, even with the bread wrapped, many bakers remained dubious.
It was a commercial failure for 15 years, until Wonder Bread popularized the idea and altered the meals of the world forever (think French toast, club sandwiches, bread pudding).
While Rohwedder focused a lot on improving the manufacturing process, he failed to spread his brilliant idea. Some great minds have the occasional product win, but sadly, most marketers fail to attract the word-of mouth they want.
Mass media used to make it easy for us to spread ideas. We simply had to buy ‘attention’ by putting ads on TV. All these products below made it on the market because they were able to touch us and grab our attention through mass media, whether we liked it or not.
This model isn’t working like it once did. In a world where we’re confronted with too many choices and not enough time, we tend to ignore the ordinary.
Imagine you’re walking into a store and you pass by an aisle of toothpastes and toothbrushes. You’ll probably keep walking because you’ve seen toothbrushes before. Toothbrushes are invisible to you. They are lifeless, dull. But if one of those toothbrushes was completely black, you would probably notice it.
My point is not to invent black toothbrushes, but that your idea has to be remarkable to get everyone’s attention. People will ignore a regular white toothbrush but notice a black one.
Brands that dominate our daily functions, such as shampoo, paper towels and deodorant, constantly fight to keep from fading into monotony. They must find a non-traditional way to get noticed. They must accept that, as consumer expectations change, so too must brand advertising techniques.
Data, taken from Brandwatch’s report on Household & Personal Care Goods, shows that brand managers in this industry spent a $ 557 billion dollars in one year (2013) trying to interrupt us with commercials, emails, spam, coupons, magazine ads, shelving allowances, and so on.
While many marketers believe advertising can hugely affect a brand’s image, consumers feel differently. Consumers are so flooded with ads, they ignore most of it as there’s just too much of it to process. They rank personal experience, word-of-mouth and packaging well above ads.
So how can your product idea become remarkable? Avoid being safe, average, ordinary, and above all, find the people who really care about what you have to say. Talk to them. Market to those people who are listening.
It’s impossible to create a product that appeals to everyone, but to the people who love it, they will spread the word.
Toilet paper, for example, isn’t all that entertaining, but Charmin succeeded in creating one of the most engaged communities online. Their playful Twitter account celebrates the joys of using the bathroom with #tweetsfromtheseat, besides advertising their product. Charmin’s Twitter account now has over 40,000 dedicated followers.
Dove successfully stands out from the crowd by encouraging women to be far more confident about their beauty and by targeting and including these customers in their marketing efforts. A great example is their recent Beauty Patches commercial, which received a truckload of positive comments and shares.
Whatever industry you operate in, the first battle you have to win over the hearts, minds and dollars of your potential customers is to rise above the noise and grab their attention by doing something different. Don’t let your marketing take the back seat. It’s not the best product, but the product that has the ability to spread that will most likely succeed.