Sometimes a company comes up with a product so innovative, it defines a new category. Augmented reality glasses are a current example. A while back, it was e-books.
If you're responsible for marketing the new product, you might start by watching late-night TV. Pay particular attention to the informercials: They will teach you what you need to get your new product adopted more quickly.
Consider this classic late-night infomercial:
The car is brand new. You can see the lights of the sound studio reflect off its shiny body. No dings, no scratches, nothing but perfection. But wait: The man standing next to the car is starting to splash gasoline over the hood! Hey, what's he doing with that match?
Standing next to the car is a firefighter, all dressed up and ready to extinguish anything that might get out of hand. He's got an ax and a professional fire extinguisher. He is very confident.
The presenter, the man standing next to the car with the match, lights the match. The audience looks on in horror.
You can see that the audience is absorbed in the drama when the camera does a quick pan.
The lighted match hits the car, and the vehicle bursts into flames. The audience is going crazy now.
The trusty firefighter sprays the car with fire-repellent, and soon the flames are gone. The audience sighs in relief. But the car looks ruined.
"No problem," says the presenter as he shows the audience the product. Taking a cloth from his pocket, he squirts the product on the car and begins to buff. What this?! The soot and scarring from the flames disappear, and the original finish and shine reappear. The audience goes wild.
Now comes the pitch: You can buy the product for only $29.95 (payable in 2 payments if you want), and if you act now (this product is so popular there are only a few left), they'll throw in an extra bottle! The audience claps enthusiastically. They're obviously as impressed with the offer as they were when the polish made the car look brand new again.
But wait... there's more! If you buy now, you'll get a special bottle of window cleaner (a $15.99 value) for FREE! That's right—but only if you call now. The audience is almost fainting with delight.
Does the offer still sound a little risky? No problem; there's a money back guarantee. Phone numbers are splashed across the screen, along with various accepted credit cards (virtually every card is accepted).
The camera pulls back, and the audience applauds. The entire presentation took no more than a few minutes.
The Successful Product Marketing Formula
The described infomercial is an example of formula marketing, and every infomercial works essentially the same way. The products may differ (although even that's debatable), but the way the story develops is something that every marketer can learn from.
Here's how it works.
First, show the audience that what they're buying is a lot better than the competition and what they're already using. That's called the relative advantage, or the better mousetrap. Everybody knows about the technique; it's the most elementary idea in business about why a product is adopted. You know, my product is better than yours, my service is cheaper, etc.
Infomercials often have demonstrations that allow the product's benefits to be observed. That's observability. Think about what you sell, and ask yourself, "Are the benefits I'm trying to convey readily observable?"
Notice that all informercials focus on how easy it is to use their product. You'll hardly need instructions, because it's not complex. You just wax the polish on like any other, or take the pill like any other pill.
Can you try the product out without the risk of paying for it? Of course! That's called trialability. Sometimes you can get a free sample. Before making a big commitment, you can see if it works for yourself.
Finally, the product is compatible with your social context (the way people have historically done things, and their social environment).
Compatibility is important, because it's subtle but plays an important role. Here is an example: In 2000, I wrote a weekly column for a major technology magazine website. E-Books had just come out, and I said they would take a long time to overtake the sale of printed books, mainly because e-books weren't compatible with how people held and treasured books in the past.
I received hate mail saying I was behind the times and had no vision of the future. Note that I wasn't saying e-books would never be adopted; I was saying it would be a slow process.
Have e-book sales overtaken those of physical books? Not according to research and articles investigating the figures.
Don't underestimate compatibility.
What Marketers Can Learn
The previously cited central ideas, which were first identified by Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations (1962), show up in every infomercial: Show the audience a relative advantage of your product, make its benefits observable, make it compatible in all senses, make it easy to try out without having to pay anything, and make it simple to use.
Are those powerful ideas? You bet. A ton of academic research has been done demonstrating that very few new business ideas survive unless they have all of those basic elements.
So, look at your product or service and see if what you are doing is consistent with the ideas of what makes products successful presented in this article (e.g., compatible with your customer's way of processing information and living in a social context, not complex, benefits easily observed, etc.). If not, then don't expect your offering to sell as readily as the ones on those infomercials that make tons of money.
More Resources on New Product Adoption
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