A great product is only one piece of the puzzle; congruent and novel marketing strategies get that product the attention it deserves.
The breakneck pace of the tech industry is less of a bell curve, where developers have predictable phases of adoption, and more of a “big bang.” Either a disruptive technology explodes onto the marketplace, or it doesn’t. With everything pouring into consumer view faster and cheaper, the response is educated, immediate and has therefore changed the whole product lifecycle.
Looking over recent history, some technologies have hit, not just because of their usefulness, but also because their marketing strategies struck a chord. The uniqueness of any particular idea makes it salient, and hard to reproduce predictably, but understanding the language of innovation wrapped around these products is valuable information.
- Uber came into public awareness for a few key reasons: it provided a desperately needed service, in this case transportation, it used existing infrastructure by hiring car owners instead of investing in vehicles, and the digital platform is extremely efficient, so consumers get results fast. Uber was solving a couple problems for cities at once: commuting, parking and reducing carbon emissions.
Uber’s marketing campaign was very much a combination of word of mouth, high-profile partnerships and promotions. Its “Kittens” campaign joined forces with the SPCA to deliver kittens in seven major cities, playing on the social media meme kittens equal happy people.
- Another product and service combination that gained tremendous traction was Etsy. This strategy capitalized on the DIY movement and gave creatives a high-profile venue to pawn their wares. Like Ebay, but without the auction, Etsy gave producers of goods a direct line of sale to their customer, as well as control over pricing and shipping.
Etsy’s global marketing campaign was very effective in that it delivered a sense of authenticity and connection between consumer and producer that has all but disappeared from the marketing scene. This was especially triumphant in gift-giving and seasonal cycles, where the value of vintage, one-of a-kind and handmade goods resonates with a large base of consumers.
- Ever since the Jetsons, the collective imagination has yearned for a time when just thinking about an action makes it possible. The Emotiv Neuro Transmitter may have broken the finish line with a headset that translates brainwaves into commands. Users can optimize their own cognitive functions, compose music, or play video games, just by thinking about it.
Tan Le, the founder and developer, used a very simple but sophisticated strategy in introducing the technology: she sought out her audience by giving a Ted Talk, a behind-the-scenes video to illustrate the evolution of the headset, and made the bold move of taking the product to the public, rather than B2B specialization, like the medical or military industries.
- Hootsuite was such a simple idea that it was nearly overtaken by a few competitors in the Software-as-a-Service game, but its agility in allowing users to schedule and control posts to big platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook put it out in front. Hootsuite was able to leverage its efficacy as a social media conveyor by creating some spoof videos that went viral like wildfire. Using the iconography of Game of Thrones, Hootsuite was able to put itself on the map (quite literally if you watch the video) by borrowing the very recognizable logos of all the major players in the social media arena. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=3&v=el8Ydwh0QlQ
- Illustrating similar ingenuity, Hubspot coined the term inbound marketing, a circular concept that brings targeted consumers into contact with relevant business content. The platform does this by offering a treasure trove of materials and tools including marketing kits, case studies, analytics and tons of evergreen content that creates a short cut for both businesses and customers.
What is unique about this offering is that the product is the marketing. Because they are specialists in all things marketing (viral, social, e-commerce and the list goes on); the service advertises for itself.
The take away from these examples may not be platitudes about how to energize consumers; humans are fickle and with more variety available than ever, they are far more discerning than the previous generation of consumer. However, maybe the bigger lesson is that with a unique offering there must be equally unique messaging. What these companies proved is that questioning assumptions about how to sell a product is one of the most basic ingredients in a magnetic and memorable campaign.