Friday, December 19

What was your name?

As a society we tend to have a conservative bent to our naming - John, Thomas, Julie, Frank, and so on.

Every once in a while you see a name that stands out from the rest. Take “Moon” Zappa for instance, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s little girl “Apple”- names that don’t exactly fit into the main stream – but is that a bad thing?

Maybe not for a child, but it can be for an inventor trying to come up with a name for the product that will eventually emerge from the hard fought technology being developed in the basement.

Let’s start by looking at some product names that simply should have never made their way to the store shelf. What were they thinking?

Pee Cola (Beverage)
Spontex (sponges)
Poo (Potato chips)
Fridge Balls (air fresheners for your fridge)
Anusol (Cream…you can guess what kind)
Bimbo (Sandwich bread)
Wack-Off (Insect repellent)

Now, in all fairness there has been a long standing debate in the marketing world about this issue.

Some experts say only use names that are descriptive of your product, some say use names that are catchy and have nothing to do with your product, and still others say anything goes – use a name that will get “Top of Mind” (a marketing term that describes remembering something before something else) the wackier the better.

I tend to stay in the middle. In most cases I think a name should be somewhat descriptive of the use of a product simply because you have so little time to communicate value to the consumer and the name is a prime place to do that.

Short of an obvious descriptive nature to the name, it should have some memory to it in terms of getting the consumer to think of it rather than the competitors. All in all I tend to use a set of simple rules to stay on the right track for naming a product.

1. Never name a product after a derogatory term and never use a term or phrase that could offend the consumer in any way.
2. Always keep it as short as possible – consumers are bombarded with images and things to remember, short and sweet will always win out over long and complicated
3. Funny works great when it can be used, but don’t force feed funny
4. Don’t be afraid to use a tag line to add additional information or act as a clarifier for the name itself
5. Complicated names make the consumer feel stupid – it may not be true, but they assume everyone else gets it and they don’t. This brings them to feelings of insecurity and creates an indelible line between that insecurity and your product – not good for sales.
6. Hooked on Phonics – the consumer has to be able to phonetically pronounce your product name. If they can’t, they feel stupid, and there’s that line again back to an unhappy time in Mr. Smith’s 3rd grade English class where all the other kids made fun of them.

I knew a lady once years ago who for 20 years refused to buy Neapolitan Ice Cream because she thought it said “Napoleon”. She had taken a history class and learned that Napoleon was not such a nice person. She made a mental link between the name and the product. All because she couldn’t pronounce the name phonetically. This may be an extreme case, but it’s true.

Unfortunately there are no "one size fits all" guidelines for naming products. Rather a set of socially driven boundaries and memory tricks we use to optimize the naming opportunity.

Remember, the name adds a level of value to the product. Making the name something the consumer can smile about is always helpful to the purchasing decision since at the end of the day the act of purchasing is all about turning their emotion into your cash.

Mark Reyland

Thursday, December 18

A Market Audit...What's that?

We hear the word “Audit” and we instantly think about the IRS. But in the inventing industry the word audit means something good – it means information and that information means better decision making.

One of the first steps in developing a retail product, or getting a product idea ready for licensing is to perform what we call a “Market Audit” we use this tool to understand the current state of the market in which our new product is going to have to live.

In the early stages this is a far more important step than running to the patent attorney or hiring people to work on development. The Audit not only tells you important information about the market, but it lets you know the competitive factors that help you decide to more forward or not.

In conducting a Market Audit you need to first reduce the “product” down to its core function. This is important because audits are done based on function not just on like products. (see blog post )

Armed with your function – look for every item currently being sold that is a functional equivalent of what you want to market. List the information in a matrix so you can quickly see the 30,000 foot view of the entire market.

Information like – the store you found it in, the size, packaging type, price, color, benefits, distributor….anything you can think of that gives you a better feel for how this product stacks up to yours.

It’s not complicated, but it is important, so don’t skip this step, in fact make it one of your first steps and you will find it saves you a lot of money and time.

Wednesday, December 17

It's all about the money....

Not long ago the question “What is your motivation” was posed on one of those invention "lottery" sites where you post your great idea and check your status 20 times a day hoping to be selected.

Of course few ever are selected, and most will fade away eventually realizing that our industry is like any other - you have to work at it and learn the processes before you can find success. 

Having watched the kind of hope-filled people who use these sites for many years now, I was sure the motivation would simply be money. In fact, I was surprised to see a mix of money and humanity in their responses.

“Money, plain and simple. I don’t work for free”

“I want to be proud of myself”

“My motivation is solving problems and using the capital to help solve world issues”

“My motivation is to make life better for the human race,. One invention at a time”.

“I’m tired of living pay check to pay check. I’m tired of being poor, I’m tired of being scared”

“My motivation: To win an argument with Fred, my hubby”.

A unique insight into the mind of an inventor? - or normal human emotion manifesting itself through the idea of creating an impact? Maybe an impact on society, or on self esteem, or on ones bank account…..I’m not really sure.

I did read one response though, that made me pause and reflect on my own motivation. I found this response much in line with how I would have answered that question myself.

“I’ll tell ya that my motivation is not money. It’s about creating something that will last longer in this world than I will. Something that will hopefully help others and that I can be remembered by”

The reality is, few of us will likely ever invent something that achieves this lofty, yet worthwhile goal.

To focus on this goal somehow strikes a balance in the inventors mind between an unavoidable mortality and the harsh reality of the journey - All taking place in a mind that by design often functions in the more abstract strata of human logic.

At it's core, inventing is in fact, one of the few "professions" in life where one can have a far reaching impact.

Like many - I too hope to find that elusive social impact to leave behind, that inventor legacy if you will. Maybe not as much to be remembered by (for that I choose kindness over invention) but rather to in some small way - leave this place a little better than I found it.

What about you.....What’s Your Motivation?

Mark Reyland

Tuesday, December 16

Free money for inventors....

Sorry - Just kidding, but now that I have your attention, I have something very important to tell you. This is not some sermon about how to license a product, or warning about taking things to market without knowing what you're doing.

No, this is much simpler, much more primal to the process of inventing.
This bit of wisdom you should put in your wallet and carry with you everywhere you go for the rest of your natural life. It's the ultimate fortune cookie advice that every inventor should have at the forefront of their thought process.

This very simple reality guides everything you will ever do in the world of inventing retail products. So here it is:

"A retail product is simply a wrapper for a solution to a consumer problem" 

WOW! That's really cool! This one simple statement sums up the entire process you have tried so hard to wrap your mind around.

But what does it mean? 

Let me explain - We are all consumers, and as our daily lives unfold we experience problems we need solved. If you strip away the fancy logo and catchy jingle you will see that retailers are just the place we (as people with problems) go to find ready-made solutions.

Retailers are the repositories of the solutions to everyday problems such as: I'm hungry, I have no way to get home, my clothes stink, my room is a mess, and so on. 

When we have those problems, but the retailer doesn't have the solution, we use our natural tendencies as inventors to find a new solution. When we find that solution, we take it to the manufacturers who will place it in their repository so the next time someone has the problem they can buy the solution. 

We as retail product inventors are simply the ones that keep the repository full of new solutions that apply to the broadest group of people experiencing those problems.

The larger the group of people having the problems the more value the solution has - simple as that.

So, spend some time thinking about this statement "A retail product is simply a wrapper for a solution to a consumer problem" don't over analyze it. Just take it for what it is, and apply it to the consumer invention you are working on. Figure out what the problem is your invention solves, and be honest about how many people it really helps.

You will be amazed at how well these simple words can guide you closer to success.

Now get back out to the shed and find me a solution!

Mark Reyland

Monday, December 15

On the subject of rejection....

On the subject of rejection.....

Rejection has to be the number one killer of most Inventors drive to see their product become reality.

There are plenty of people with fantastic ideas that throw in the towel the first time they're told “No Thanks” by a company. It takes time, timing, and a well thought out and researched product idea to get that elusive "yes" - and the inventor takes “no” as a personal assault is just inexperienced.
Granted, no one likes getting rejected, but you have to realize it's part of the process and one that you cannot avoid.

If you received some feedback with your rejection, listen to it. these are professionals, and in the end it's another data point for you to factor into your process.

If you consider the reasons you get rejected it isn’t always your idea. Yes, you need to understand that if you have a bad idea, and it's not marketable, no amount of tweaking will change that outcome.

Here is a list of reasons your idea can be rejected even if it is a marketable idea.

1. The company has a full line and is not open to adding more products.
2. You didn’t do your research and your product is outside their target market.
3. You sent your submission to the wrong person within the company.
4. You sent the idea unsolicited and the company rejected it solely on that basis.
5. You did not have proper contact information on your submission.
6. They already have similar products and don’t want to add another.

There are any number of reasons your idea can get rejected. Some clearly not your fault. But some are your fault, and those are the ones you should focus on fixing.

The number one reason most inventors get rejected is simply because the idea isn't designed to maximize the market size. All products have a market, even if that market is one person - but successful retail products have a large market.

The larger the market, the less the consumer is currently being serviced, and the better thought out the invention - the less chance you have of being rejected.

Mark Reyland