Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hit a Nerve, Make a Billion

Various Listerine products
Image via Wikipedia
My friend was telling me the other day about how she sleeps.

It takes 5 pillows, 2 of them under her head, 1 under her knees, and another 2 at her side.

She has to have a certain kind of cover and it has to be just so.

And if there is a single noise in the room she wakes up totally.

My friend told me that she has been married almost 50 years because she has her bed just the way she wants it. And when her husband brought in his computer and other electronic devices, including an alarm clock that projected the time onto the ceiling, she promptly made sure to get rid of them.

The way people sleep is a core issue. It hits a nerve. In a relationship, given all the things there are to compromise on, it can be a bastion of freedom. And so any sleep-related product that both offers better sleep and a unique and personalized experience has an advantage over the competition.

What is brilliant about the Sleep Number Bed is that in promising an individualized experience, the product markets itself as bringing the couple closer. Mirroring the real-life concept that "if you love someone, set them free" and if they love you, they will come back.

Other examples:
  • The "sleeved blanket" - I think of Snuggie. This is a completely unnecessary item in my mind as any piece of sufficiently heavy, soft cloth can keep you warm. But it hits a nerve. Have you noticed that it makes a person look like a swaddled newborn? I would venture to guess that it connects people back to that sensation, of being a little baby warm and cared for.
  • Products like dandruff shampoo and mouthwash (I think of Head & Shoulders and Listerine) which elicit the fear of "social undesirability." I once heard, though can't source, that mouthwash also is marketed to target customers' fear of death. When you hit somebody where it hurts, so to speak, you create a desire for the product that goes way beyond the actual functional need for it. 
If you are fortunate enough to come up with a product like this, the key is to brand it. If any product in the category strikes the same nerve, then there is no reason for you to charge more than any commodity-level offering. Think about what aspect of the product you can emphasize to make it different than any copycat who will follow you. And then think about why it will be relevant to your target audience, and how you will sustain the promise over the long-term.

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