There are product categories that have gone years without innovation. And when I say years, I mean since Ben Franklin’s time.
Take, for instance, reading glasses. It’s not like they’re things that people seldom use. Some of us, well, actually all of us, are facing the inevitable entropy called aging. So, while reading glasses are useful, they aren’t necessarily celebrated or loved. Sort of like vacuum cleaners, Pepto-Bismol or hearing aids.
What’s new Ben Franklin?
So when a new product came to us with something that innovates in this category, it got our attention. Todd Huschka had an idea: make designer reading glasses that aren’t bifocals, but you don’t have to keep taking them on and off. His idea was to simply cut the conventional lens shape into a “U” so you could use your long distance vision looking straight ahead most of the time, but when you had to read you simply looked down through the glass portion for correction. Glasses to read. Not glasses to see far. Pretty slick idea. It seemed like a product with a lot of potential but would need to be differentiated on more than just the functional benefits. After all, there wasn’t a burning need for reading glasses. So what is the burning need and reason to live in a target consumer’s life?
Think deeper than benefits. What’s behind the need?
Rather than stabbing blindly (pardon the pun) in the dark, the first step is to figure out who your audience is. In this case it starts with demographics, but quickly expands to deep psychological needs. You don’t need anything but walking around research to know that the biggest audience for this product is people over 40. Demographics done. That’s the easy part.
The next step is to figure out what is their need? Not functionally, but psychologically. What about this brand makes them more of who they are? Not who are they”“a 40-year-old female who’s facing farsightedness”“but who they are archetypically? A brand acts as a prop in their personal theatre, so the key to success is to discover the story they are telling the world through the product.
What story are they telling to the world?
First off, the bad news: they’re aging. What happens when you age? You fight it. You deny it. You rebel against it.
Then the good news: when you age you just want to stay cool. Many people carry brands that say: “I’m still there. I’m still young.” Products that embrace the unconventional, that eschew normality scream young.
The story many people of this age want to tell the world is, “I’m still an original. I’m not a fuddy-duddy. I’m still the cool rebel I always was.”
This is the harmonic convergence we’re looking for: a product that is avant-garde and breaks convent; a product that rejects convention and was literally born out of a need for re-inventing the way it’s always been done. That the product meets a consumer who is rebelling against aging and needs a brand-prop that screams unconventional. Voila! Burning need.
Who gets to be invited to the show?
Does this mean that every boomer out there is going to wear these glasses? Far from it. Positioning is not about inclusion, it’s about exclusion. Besides, it’s unlikely that we’re going to sell this brand to people who desire conformity.
So we have an archetype: The rebel. The rebel, in a nutshell, is about tearing down the old. Breaking convention. Doing it differently. Creating a better world by getting rid of the old one.
From this point onward a brand can begin to form its unique point-of-view. The archetype informs everything from the name to the packaging to the tone of voice. It tells you who to cast as models and how to answer the phones. It informs new product innovation and sales strategies. In short, an archetype is the center of the brand universe. It establishes a need for products beyond the functional.