Nearly everyone has heard of the "Sinch," pictured here, over the past few weeks. The simple, life-hacking gizmo is definitely an aid to controlling a bit of the mundane, annoying, excess chaos we all face: earphone cords. Some people have successfully cut the cord, but the mass of folks who proudly tout their white i-cords as an element of personal identity still struggle with how to wrangle the tangle.
With the Sinch, all that changes. The story of the innovative product itself, which is a collaboration between my friends at frog and Dune Road Design, has been widely covered. But given that to create a customer, as the late Peter Drucker once said, you need two things—innovation and marketing—I wanted to focus on the marketing aspect. I asked Sinch inventor Wayne Rothbaum of Dune Road Design to answer a few questions about the challenges of bringing his creation to market.
Q: There are hundreds of innovative accessories for our i-gadgets and gizmos. How did you approach the challenge of standing out from the crowd?
A: While it is true [that] there are more accessories for all our gadgets than there are actual gadgets, very few are either innovative or practical. For me, developing the Sinch was about beautiful design and a strong understanding of the user experience. We realized that having an innovative, well-designed product like the Sinch is important to help differentiate it from other cord management products, but we were concerned that innovation and design alone may not be enough to guarantee a great user experience. So, we spent a substantial amount of time researching the needs of the consumer for this application and the shortcomings of current products.
Q: What did you discover?
A: That the user experience was not just limited to form and function, but to creating an emotional relationship between the Sinch and its owner. We wanted people to feel they absolutely needed the Sinch and could not live without it. We needed to build an end-to-end customer journey—an entire ecosystem of experience.
Q: Can you elaborate with some specifics?
A: It began with creating and leveraging a great brand name—Sinch—which means to secure. For our visitor website experience, we focused on a clean, playful environment, using tags such as "Live Tangle-free," "Wrangle the Tangle" and "Stop Cord Chaos." We needed killer packaging, designed to remind customers the Sinch is more than rubber and magnets. Thus, our goal was to create a product that married innovation with good design in a playful, but effective way so our customers always felt a strong bond to their Sinch.
Q: What were some of the key elements to the "the Sinch story?"
A: There were a number of moving parts that made up the development of the Sinch, and we needed to tie them altogether. "Sinch" them if you will. We needed a well-designed, but effective product. Consumers expect a lot these days from their accessories and we understood we needed a simple, but practical product that truly solved the cord management problem. We knew that a portfolio of niche products already existed, but none of these products truly address what consumers really want: to keep cords organized and offer the ability to store the headphones with their mobile devices in a non-invasive manner.
We knew we did not want to be a "Man in a Van" product and we needed to develop a pipeline of products to extend the Sinch concept. We had to build that entire ecosystem around the Sinch which meant building a new brand from scratch. We needed to make sure we had a smart intectual property strategy, which meant a strong patent estate, to protect our Sinch from predators. Lastly, we knew we had to be intellectually honest with ourselves and understand that if we could not meet our original goals and intentions than we needed to be prepared to shut the entire program down.
Q: What were the most effective tactics for creating buzz?
A: We had a limited marketing budget and we were concerned this budget would not be enough to create the necessary "buzz" to reach a broad audience. So we developed a grassroots "guerilla" marketing strategy that used social media in an engaging and playful way to build a strong and loyal prelaunch fan base. Customers can visit our multiple social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and the SinchTV YouTube channel.
Q: What was your strategy to sustain the buzz?
A: The teaser campaign helped us build buzz, but you're right, we knew we needed something to sustain momentum. So we took a risk and did something whacky. Because our brand is about being innovative and playful, we wanted to stay true to that concept. We thought that if we could develop a strategy that helps people remember the Sinch in a fun way, we could extend awareness for the Sinch. Thus, the three minute “Invasion of the Sinch” commercial was born.
Q: It definitely made me chuckle. Can you share some of the details?
A: We wanted to recreate the ending scene of the 1978 sci-fi classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” with Donald Sutherland, but have a "Sinch" twist. Filming in both Brooklyn and the New York Public Library in mid-town Manhattan, we used 30-second “Body Snatcher” vignettes to further promote the need to live tangle-free...or else the pod people would find us! We were pleasantly surprised by how successful this launch campaign has been.
Q: What's the one piece of marketing advice you'd give a small business with an innovative offering?
A: It's a long and difficult road and the odds are against you. You need to develop both a short-term tactical and longer-term strategic plan that involves delivering a simple, but effective message about your product. I believe in the "sniper" approach, where your marketing efforts are focused on one salient message that continually is emphasized throughout the life of the campaign. Take some risk, because you want people to remember you or your product in positive light. Lastly, get used to negativity and criticism, because you won't please everyone. Most of all, believe in yourself and your ideas. You may just shine!