Big Brands Innovate the Product Demo

By Anthony Vengrove

Source: Bounty

Source: Bounty

Is it me or is the product demo making a comeback in television advertising?  They’ve come a long way since the ‘classic’ product demonstrations utilized back in the 1970’s and 80’s, and seem to be all around at the moment.  Thanks to a bit of creative and innovative thinking, today’s modern versions are quite engaging and effective.

Back in the day, product demos were utilized in a fairly generic manner and many were often portrayed in sterile and ‘scientific’ environments.  Think back to Bounty’s “quicker, picker-upper” demos that often cut to a laboratory-like setting.  I’m not implying such demos are ineffective — just a little boring, perhaps.

Here’s an example of a ‘traditional’ but very effective demo that I worked on back in the 1990’s at Grey Advertising.  Why was it so impactful?  Because it combined a relevant insight (that consumers were mistreating their gas pain with antacids) with a powerful product demonstration that communicated efficacy in a compelling and believable way.  Phazyme was a distant #3 in the anti-gas category until this campaign broke; eventually hitting #1 brand status for a period of time after steady support.

Today’s demos have evolved and may look a bit different, but they are still quite effective at ‘validating’ efficacy or communicating a key benefit.  In addition, some brands use the device simply to activate an insight or encourage their target consumer to take action. Below are four examples that recently caught my eye and engaged my curiosity.

Prudential:  How do you grab people’s attention in the cluttered retirement planning market that constantly bombards with a “start to save now” message?  You take a fairly ordinary piece of data and bring it to life in a visually engaging way.  Did you know that the brain works much more efficiently when it can visualize information?

Febreze:  How do you get people to believe a room deodorizer actually works to cover up the toughest odors?  Shock them into thinking, “Could that really be true?”   

Ally Bank:  How do you get anyone to believe anything a bank promises?  You surprise them by doing (and saying) the completely unexpected.  “If your bank takes more money than a stranger, you need an Ally.”  Hard to oppose that proposition!

Toyota Tundra:  Domestic pick-up trucks are born from American blue-collar toughness.  So how does Toyota demonstrate it belongs in the same league?  By a brute, physical display of strength:  it tows a national symbol of American exploration and adventure.  (Be sure to listen 45 seconds in for the crowd shouting, “USA” subtly in background.)

Such examples suggest product demos can serve a role greater than communicating efficacy or some other rational benefit.  They have permission to show the human condition, be visually dynamic, trigger curiosity, and stir emotion.  By doing so, they increase the odds of delivering a “Wow!”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind watching some of the above spots multiple times (can you say that about a paper towel ad?)

The growth of design thinkers, infographic illustrators, and storytellers provide new lenses to look through when attempting to create a novel concept.  As such, there remains much more opportunity to innovate this time-tested tool and capture the imagination of your consumers.  It’s an opportune moment to not only show-off what your product can do, but to demonstrate that you understand your consumers.

Innovate Invites Action

By Anthony Vengrove


© 2013 Miles Finch Innovation

I grinned ear-to-ear a few weeks ago when I read Diego Rodriguez’s post, “Innovating. Doing, not talking.” His realization that innovation requires “doing stuff” over talking about stuff dovetails exactly with our philosophy outlined in the Miles Finch Innovation manifesto.  It’s a belief imbedded in the core of our firm.

There’s something about the word innovation that brings out the philosopher in folks.  Simply utter the word and you’re likely to set off a debate about how to do it and not do it.  What it is and what it isn’t.  I agree with Mr. Rodriguez, the noun form invites definition.

And boy, do we love to define it!  Just check out Fast Company’s latest crowd-sourcing request for definitions of innovation and see for yourself how esoteric some of the responses can be.

I came to the same conclusion as Mr. Rodriguez last year when I got fed up reading so much garbage on my Twitter feed about “how to do innovation.”  Any sentence that begins with “Innovation is about …” is often followed with philosophical prose that sounds good but usually lacks grounding in academic theory or practical, real-world case examples (at least that’s been my experience).

I found myself doodling one day and as I intersected the words innovation, strategy and creativity, the latin suffix ‘ate’ presented itself.  “That’s interesting,” I thought.  The suffix means: to do, to make, to cause, to act upon, to do something with.  Inspired by this random revelation, I committed to using the word innovate over innovation as much as humanely possible.

Innovate, the verb, inspires action over definition.  And action is where magic starts.

Plus, defining innovation is somewhat useless.  For any true innovator and entrepreneur knows that the answer to “how do we do it?” is ultimately, “Any way we can.”

P.S.  There are plenty of other great words ending in ‘ate’ that serve to inspire action:  create, originate, illuminate, elucidate, instigate, accelerate, activate, captivate, passionate…  Feel free to share others!