Like most of my peers in the marketing industry, I get smart inventors and thinkers contacting me with something new that they’ve developed.
Their stories are all the same. “We can’t get any of the department stores to stock it. Or, “We can’t find anyone to do it.” ”
What they’re finding out the hard way is that in business today, the big idea is the easy part. Getting the consumer to buy something takes a lot of marketing and multimedia exposure.
And the more unique the product, the more it needs. And the more unknown the brand, the more marketing it needs. And marketing today costs a lot of money.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of great product ideas end up in the scrapyard or gathering dust in the inventor’s garage.
Just look at some that have won internationally renowned awards. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen them and can only come to the fairly confident conclusion that there was simply no more money for marketing.
Take Professor Joshua Silver’s self-adjusting glasses for which he won the Edward de Bono Medal for Reflection. Now there is something for you. A medal for reflection. Every schoolboy’s dream.
“Oil, Van Jaarsveld, what do you think you’re doing …?”
“I’m thinking, sir …”
Either way, Professor Silver’s invention is based on the assumption that a fifth of the world’s population needs glasses but doesn’t have them, mainly because they just don’t have them. means of affording them. The professor’s challenge was to find a pair of glasses that cost no more than a few dollars and that almost anyone could put on and focus on easily.
He developed lenses suitable for use that contained liquid-filled cells bounded by a thin, elastic, optical-grade plastic membrane. Changing the fluid pressure changes the power of the lenses. For the wearer, the process of fitting glasses is not much different from tuning a pair of binoculars.
The clue is in this line “… didn’t cost more than a few dollars”.
This is the biggest mistake in product development. The cost of a product is not the money it takes to make it. This cost should include a proportional cost of distribution, packaging, the price paid to retail chains for cooperative advertising before they stock anything, any other advertising, sales commissions, etc. etc. etc. … All these marketing elements that radically affect prices.
And just as Professor Silver’s adjustable glasses would have been a boon to the visually impaired masses of Africa, Jaron Lanier’s Critical Mass Communicator would bring inexpensive and hassle-free communications to our continent.
Jaron Lanier from New York was a pioneer in the field of virtual reality and, in fact, it was Lanier who coined the term.
Its Critical Mass Communicator is a human-powered wireless cellular communicator with speech recognition, synthesis and translation capabilities. Powered by a hand crank, a CMC searches for other CMCs that are operated simultaneously. Each device contains low-power, encrypted memory that holds a large number of packets waiting to find their way to the recipients.
It looks a bit like a telephone handset with a handle sticking out from the bottom. Watching someone use it would be like listening to a shaggy guy frantically trying to shave the underside of his jaw with an electric razor.
The big lesson that we usually learn from new products that fail is that when marketing fails, so does success.
There are exceptions, but they are extremely rare.
Nine out of 10 brilliant, innovative and potentially life-changing ideas end up failing because enough money was not thought of to bring them to market.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk) is a marketing analyst and consultant and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of marketing and media experience, as well as a non-executive director and president of companies.
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