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Marketing Means Building a Better Mousetrap

Produce something great and there will be built-in buzz

Published: Mar 18, 2010 07:18:48 AM IST
Updated: Mar 18, 2010 07:42:48 AM IST

There are too many companies that think marketing is about tactics. They think marketing means pretty ads or catchy taglines. These things are often fleeting and they rarely drive tangible results. Real word-of-mouth comes from something truly unique. Something that solves a problem in a way it has never been solved before. Something that solves a need you never knew you had.

The next step in the Navel Model for creating a company worth talking about is building a great product or service. It sounds simple, but so many companies miss the fact that their biggest source of buzz often comes from producing something great. Consider Apple, Sony, JetBlue, Under Armour, and hundreds of others that build something great and then get it into people’s hands. Produce something great and there will be built-in buzz.

W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne wrote a profound book in 2005 called Blue Ocean Strategy. In their book, Kim and Mauborgne use the analogy of the ocean to contrast fighting it out in a hyper-competitive market (red ocean) against creating an entirely new market where there is smooth sailing (blue ocean). Most companies today take a red ocean approach. They put their efforts into building something better, faster, or cheaper rather than building something entirely new.

One example used in the book is Cirque du Soleil. How many ways can you innovate when it comes to live entertainment? Everything has been done before. Dancing – seen it. Circus acts – old school. Acrobatics – underwhelming. However, Cirque du Soleil is one of the hottest acts in Las Vegas, New York, Montreal, and many other major cities because it combines many forms of live entertainment with amazing story lines , music, and choreography. The result is that it carved an entirely new category of entertainment.

Think it can’t be done in your industry? Consider childrens products and gear. There are more strollers, car seats, and clothing lines than you can possibly imagine, all duking it out for Mom’s almighty dollar. Enter Boon Inc. Founded by an industrial design student who came up with a concept to organize the bathtub while bathing her 2 young children, Boon launched in 2005 with the Frog Pod, an innovative new idea in bathtub clean-up. It followed its initial product with a line of innovative, “blue ocean” products such as the Squirt Dispensing Spoon, which combines the food container and feeding spoon, and the Animal Bag, which stores stray stuffed animals in a bean bag where the animals are the stuffing. Today, Boon is one of the fastest growing companies in the industry and has both media and bloggers knocking down its door to promote its products.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with the quote, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” This is often quoted in marketing circles as a fallacy. There is much more to marketing than building a great product, however, a great product is the foundation for great marketing in a sea of “me too”, commoditized markets. After you build a great product, you still have to light the fire by getting it in to people’s hands. But “blue ocean” products will accelerate the rate at which word about your product and company spreads. Just ask the makers of Tivo, Nintendo Wii, and Jones Soda.

[This article has been reproduced with permission from Knowledge Network, the online thought leadership platform for Thunderbird School of Global Management https://thunderbird.asu.edu/knowledge-network/]

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