Rocket Fuel

In product launch, a genuinely new and different or complex product can be tough to market, because your audience just doesn’t get it. They don’t know what it is, let alone why they want it. They need a point of reference anchored in commonly understood ideas, a practice we call creating a Standard of Identity (SOI).

Let’s use a couple examples from ancient history. Remember the Newton? 

Not the cookie. Think handheld device from the early 90s, named for the guy who “discovered” gravity. 

This turned out to be a fitting name choice, seeing that the Newton’s fortunes dropped like an apple from a tree. 

The Newton’s obituary has been written before. The stylus! The Steve Jobs situation! The Doonesbury cartoons!

But it didn’t help that the Newton claimed to be so many new and revolutionary things that it bewildered people. And bewildered people don’t buy.

Meanwhile, Palm Pilot took a different route. They positioned themselves as a calendar, with handwriting recognition and other techy stuff. People understand calendars. Palm Pilot anchored customers on the calendar idea, and allowed them to discover other features later. That Standard of Identity helped them win the PDA market.

A SOI places your offering in the right spot in the mind, by relating it to something familiar. It’s like describing a zebra to people who’ve never seen one. “A zebra? Dude, it’s a horse with stripes.” 

How would you describe your novel, or inherently complex product in just a few words that connect it to something your audience knows? Do that, and you’ve got your SOI. You’ve got a conversational shortcut to adoption. You’ve got a horse with stripes.

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