No one cares about your breakthrough oscillating toothbrush technology

There’s a horrible myth in the world of product development that assumes 3 steps to success. They are:

  1. Create a new product (making sure it’s awesome)
  2. Tell people about the new product (and how awesome it is)
  3. Wait for people to come buy new product (because rationally, they should. Refer to proof points in steps 1 & 2 that confirm it is, indeed, awesome.)

Sounds simple. So why 99% of the time it doesn’t work?

Well the obvious point that I’ll glance over is that the product may actually not be awesome, it might suck. But I work in advertising, so to suggest that is the problem is not only cynical but also does not go far to rationalise my existence.

So let’s focus on point 2:

"Tell people about the new product (and how awesome it is).”

With an awesome ad agency on standby and a budget to support your NEW product launch, nothing can go wrong. Right?

Well, have you ever considered that nobody cares abut your new product? And telling them about it in an interesting or entertaining way is great, because they’ll like your entertainment ad / message, but they still won’t care?

The first problem is that unless your product actually changes the world (or at least your target consumer’s world), it’s not going to getting very far down the ‘purchase funnel' beyond awareness. 

The second problem is that people do not buy ‘products’ as much as they buy ‘brands’. Products alone do not make people feel warm and fuzzy inside upon making a purchase or feed someone's ego. When Arthur’s talking to his upper class acquaintances at the golf club he doesn’t say “I bought a car’, he says “I bought a Lamborghini’’. When you realise you’re due for a new phone you don’t think ‘I need a new telephone to assist me in communicating to friends, family and colleagues’, you think ‘should I get an Apple or Android? Stay iOS or try Android’. When one of your friends asks you to look something up they don’t ask ‘can you put this fact into a search engine’ they demand you ‘Google it’.

So when a new product comes onto market, the hype for it by the media and desire for it by you (often an outcome of the hype) isn’t because of the product. It’s because of the brand.

This brings me to the third, probably not final, but in my mind biggest problem with new product news is the people who work for the actual brand. They assume people will care, because they care. And they think like people who care, so they want to communicate in a way that assumes other people will care if only they could communicate in a way that would make them care.

What adds to this problem is that new = exciting. And exciting means a lot of people from within the organisation are watching what’s happening. But they don’t just watch, they get involved. And that means lots of opinions. And more people, more opinions, means not only more time inefficiencies, but more people to make happy, more compromises of an idea, and less good, clear, simple communications.

The best ads out there aren’t new product ads, think Old Spice ‘the man your man could smell like’, or Betty White (then been redone a million times) 'you’re not you when you’re hungry’, any John Lewis epic ('Monty the Penguin' etc.), or Apple’s ‘Apple vs Mac’, they’re not selling something ‘new’, they’re just selling their brand through a simple piece of communication based on an incredible insight.

So next time you walk into a client briefing and they say in a sad tone that there’s nothing new to say about their brand, see the opportunity to get creative! 

Or think whatever you want, I’m just rambling on the fly.