When you’re getting ready to launch a new product, there are two key challenges. The first is figuring out how to describe what the product does and why people should care—in plain English. The second is trying to describe what the product does and why people should care—in a way that is unique and ownable so “me-too” products can’t easily take over your market share. Easier said than done, but here are some tips to help you improve your chances.
Start with the basic concept
Before you can get to proprietary language, you need to nail the basics. A good concept clearly describes the features and benefits of your new product and is grounded in consumer insights. In some cases, particularly in highly engineered products (think special formulas, chemistry, appliances, etc.), describing the features and what they do may not be as easy as you think. Start, then, with the most basic and simple description of what it is the new product does. Think ‘lowest common denominator.’ Strip away all the descriptive words and cull it down to the bare bones (don’t worry; we’ll build it back up soon!). Once you’re satisfied this wording properly describes what the product does in a way that’s straightforward and understandable, you can move on to the next tip.
Make it proprietary and intuitive
The next step is to translate the basic description into something much sexier and more appealing than the stripped-down version you first created. How can you get the core product idea across in a few words? We find that using a sub-brand or other trademarked descriptor can help. When Maybelline came out with a new mascara years ago, it sported the name “Stiletto.” Genius! They had me thinking sharp, black and pointy with a single word.
But if you shy away from sub-brands because your brand architecture won’t allow for it or you don’t want to complicate things, that’s OK. Take the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker for example. They presumably wanted consumers to know that their pressure cooker makes food crispy on the outside yet tender on the inside, and now the brand claims that their products cook with “TenderCrisp™ Technology.” Isn’t that what all air fryers do? Sure, it’s a category ante in this case, but to consumers it probably sounds like the leader in a category—just unique enough to sway consumers to purchase this brand over someone else’s. Unique, proprietary and intuitive.
Here’s another example of a brand that knew the power of the intuitive (and ownable) name: Depend Silhouette. When this brand launched 10 years ago, the makers knew they had an incontinence brief that was thinner and more underwear-like than others on the market. There were many advantages to the new, thinner model—the same protection in a slimmed-down format, improved comfort, oh, and the fact that now without the bulk, fewer people might notice they were wearing an incontinence brief! As it turns out, “hiding the secret” was pretty important to consumers, so when Writing by Design suggested the “Silhouette” sub-brand name, a star was born. Simple, intuitive and definitely proprietary.
Focus on features (and sometimes benefits) for distinctive language
In our examples above, the unique words deliver primarily on the features. (TenderCrisp™ is what the air fryer does to the food, which ultimately makes it taste better and is the real benefit of the device. Silhouette delivers on its slim design, also a feature, and consumers easily laddered to the benefit of discretion.) We typically find that a new product’s features are where brands have more leeway to carve out a proprietary space because they are usually what make a product unique. All products in the category tend to deliver on the same benefits, leaving each one with fewer options to stand out when using a category benefit in the name. However, there are exceptions. Huggies Gentle Care diapers undeniably deliver on the category benefits of gentle care for babies’ bottoms, but don’t tell you exactly what’s different or how they do that. In this case, they likely rely on the Mother Ship (the Huggies brand) to persuade consumers to buy them more-so than any unique features.
But it sounds too…
Fill in the blank…technical, artificial, complicated. We’ve heard them all as responses to our suggestions. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we as writers or you as brand champions think: it matters what your consumers think!
If the language someone proposes makes you uncomfortable, that’s probably good! You’re outside your comfort zone, which is where many brands need to move to make growth happen. Don’t just poo-poo it because you don’t think the boss will like it, or it sounds too techy, or you personally don’t like it. Accept the challenge to try something new and put it in front of your consumers! Get a concept together or a few snippets of language and go get yourself some qualitative feedback, but by all means, explore!
Translating the basic description of a new product into something unique and appealing is best left to writing experts—particularly ones outside of your own company. Why? Because it’s easy to continue to speak “category” speak, or to use internal language and terms that may not mean a thing to your consumers. But whether you end up “DIY-ing” your own language or hiring professional writers, coming up with the perfect set of words (or single word like “Stiletto” or “Silhouette”!) is a great way to add some purchase-intent power to your new product concepts and protect them down the road from “me-too” products.
Patti Purcell brings 25+ years of journalism and marketing skills together to provide national and international companies with outstanding concept writing and marketing communications services via the company she founded in 2006, Writing by Design LLC. She and her growing team, based in Wisconsin, tie strategic thinking, efficient processes and Crystal Clear℠ thought and execution into all projects supporting clients large and small.