questions
Whenever someone subscribes to this blog, they get a welcome email that encourages them to let me know what their biggest marketing challenge is. I reply to every one of these by private email. Sometimes, I have what I hope is a constructive suggestion.

It occurred to me that sharing these brief exchanges (minus any identifying details) might be useful to the rest of the Neuromarketing reader base. So, here’s the first one – the content from the original emails has been edited to preserve privacy and better fit the diverse interests of our readers:

My biggest challenge at the moment is distilling a product that doesn’t really fall into any existing “category” to an attractive value proposition that can be explained quickly.

My Reply:
Products outside established categories are always a significant marketing challenge. When people don’t know what a product is or why they need it, the selling cycle is inevitably longer and more difficult.

This reader’s challenge is a key part of that process: how does one develop an elevator pitch (or even a much shorter “tweet pitch”) for a product that people don’t know exists and that falls outside established categories?

Innovative products in established categories are easier. People know what a car is, so if your product is a new kind of auto, you can just say “this car is a convertible sports car that runs on either electricity or hydrogen.” You don’t have to explain why someone would want a car, or what it is used for.

Launching into a lengthy explanation of a novel product is often a non-starter. People hearing that pitch will lose interest before it’s over.

Without any product specifics to guide me, I think the best approach is to use a strategy that has been shown to be brain-friendly: metaphors. Blogger Henneke Duistermaat (@HennekeD) wrote a nice post on the topic, How to Use the Persuasive Power of Metaphors,

A great example of this is the entertainment industry. They create shorthand pitches that reference known products – e.g., “Die Hard meets Robin Hood” for a medieval action movie in which a lone hero overcomes a numerically superior enemy under difficult conditions. That saves many sentences when compared to describing the setting, the time period, the kind of movie, and the plot outline.

A metaphor could be quite closely related, like the movie example, or more abstract, like, “Our new product is sunshine in a box.”

The short description sets the hook, and then invites a more detailed explanation. In the case of the reader’s new product, the goal would be to find several known products or categories that can be used to succinctly capture at least some of the essence of the new product. With that as a starting point to establish interest, one can then go into a more elaborate description.

(For more on metaphors, see Persuade with Visual Metaphors and Persuade with Silky Smooth Copy.)

A different approach would be to focus on the pain point the problem will solve. “We eliminate open-office distraction and make people productive” is a lot easier to say than describing a virtual reality helmet that controls all visual and auditory stimuli for the wearer.

Feel free to add your own suggestions for dealing with the “new category” issue in a comment!

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