Product marketing, souvenir mugs and expensive bike lights

I just got back from a week's holiday in Port Douglas. When I was there, I spent some time browsing one of those open-air pop-up markets that are ubiquitous in tourist areas. 

One of the stalls - called Funstuff by Lynda - sold souvenir mugs. You know the type. They usually have the name of the town with some kind of cute picture. I have never, in my entire life, felt any urge to buy one. I have loads of mugs, and I don't particularly need another one that reminds me where I went on holiday in 2018.

But these mugs were different. Take a look:


As you can see, these are now mugs that fit a specific purpose: thanking the people who looked after your pets, house, mail, kids or whatever. 

Personally, I would never have considered buying someone a mug to thank them. It's a great idea, but it just never crossed my mind. I usually thank the people who get my mail or look after my miscreant cats by forgetting about them until I'm in the airport, at which point I buy them some mediocre chocolate.

But Lynda has solved this problem for me. By slightly reframing her product, Lynda has immediately focussed my mind on a problem I have (my need to thank someone), and presented her product as a solution to that problem.  

Back to you

It's easy to conflate marketing with promotional activity like advertising and public relations, but, as any first-year commerce student can tell you, marketing is actually an alliterative mix of a few different things: promotion, product, pricing and packaging

These mugs show how valuable the "product" part of this mix can be. By tweaking your product to better-match the needs of the people who buy it, you can get a big impact with a fairly small up-front investment. 

Free lunch

The really cool thing about this bit of marketing is that it can be almost free. Lynda was  painting mugs anyway; it probably didn't take much extra paint or time to paint cute "thank you" messages than it would have cost to paint something else. That's a pretty good deal when you compare it to promotional activity, which would have cost time, money or both. 

Of course, there is a downside: the risk that you misread the market, and nobody wants your product. But that's often a pretty easy risk to manage. If I were Lynda, I'd start by just making a few mugs with "thank you" messages, then monitor how well they sell compared to standard souvenir mugs. This reduces your risks and keeps your costs low. 

Bike lights

Here's another example. I have lights on my bicycle for when I'm riding very early in the morning or late in the evening (safety first). I use this light:

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 1.02.09 PM.png

That 100 means it's 100 lumens.

Now, here's a 100 lumen light from The Warehouse:

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 12.54.54 PM.png

 Yikes. The fine people at Blackburn saw me coming - they sold me an $8 light for $55. But really, what am I supposed to do with a headlamp? There's no way that thing's going to stretch around my helmet without breaking. The Blackburn light, on the other hand, clips to my handlebars - no fuss at all. 

While the Blackburn light probably is better quality, I doubt it's more than 6x better quality, which is what the price would suggest. But it solves my problem in a way that the cheap light doesn't, so I paid a stiff premium for it. 

This is similar to Lynda's mugs, in that a small tweak to an underlying product (a mug, or a light) made it more valuable for a specific subset of people by solving a specific problem. Where Lynda's tweak made me more likely to buy her product, Blackburn's tweak made me willing to pay a large premium for their product. 

In defense of promotion

None of this is to say that promotion should be ignored. Like all the P's in marketing, it has its place. But you can often make your promotion a lot stronger by first making sure your product is doing the best job it can to meet your customers' needs. 

If you get this right, your promotional activity gets massive benefits - promoting a product people want is, naturally, a lot easer than promoting a product that people don't want. Conversely, if you get this wrong, your promotional activity suffers. All the Facebook ads, billboards and videos in the world  can't compensate for the fact that your product doesn't meet the needs of the people who you want to buy it.

Also, these mugs show that changing your product doesn't need to be an entire overhaul. It can just be a little tweak that either makes it better at solving a problem, or makes it better-suited to solving a different problem. 

Now what?

Here are some useful questions you can use to check the "product" component of your marketing: 

  • Does this product fit the needs of the people we're talking to?

  • Can we make this product more valuable?

  • Can we make this product more appealing?

This approach bolsters your other marketing activities, as well as your sales in general. The overall effect is a healthier bottom line. 

Sam GroverComment