Branding innovation: the toaster approach

A friend recently sat down to pick my brain about an idea he’s got for a new business. He’s in the fitness sector and he’s got a truly new perspective related to training, strength and injury prevention. He spent about an hour outlining his thinking, and I enjoyed listening to him. His analysis is original and engaging. I learned something new and in own mind started applying it to my own challenges with my back.

But when it comes to marketing, he’s got some obstacles to overcome. Chief among these is that while many of us love new stuff, we don’t like the time it takes to understand it. The best copywriting in the world isn’t going to get people to tune for an hour.All marketing and marketing writing is a shorthand, a brief symbolic stand-in for the whole story we’ll never be patient enough to listen to. This works fine for laundry detergent. Just say something about Ring Around the Collar, and we get it. But what about truly innovative stuff we don’t know yet?

I suggested to my friend that he think in terms of what problem his technology could solve. By focusing on a benefit, he can radically compress the storytelling, while still communicating value. I gave the example of a toaster. According to Wikipedia, the fist pop up toaster was patented in 1919. I still don’t know how it works. I just know it makes toast and that I like toast, especially with glutten-free bread, which tastes pretty bad raw. I do know there’s a heating coil inside the toaster powered by electricity but if you had to explain to me all the inner workings of the toaster I’d never finish breakfast.

Marketing innovation is all about communicating application. What is the “toaster” for my friend? Perhaps sciatica pain relief. While people may never take an hour to learn about how their musculature really works, they may well download a 20-minute video to learn exercises that will relieve lower back pain. We just need to make sure not to make it too much of a pain for them to understand the benefit.

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