New Ways to Look at Old Products

One of the tough things about being around for a while is that you become generic. In the consumer’s mind, Kleenex means tissue, but tissue is tissue. So the challenge is to somehow create a new use for, or way of looking at, an old product.

In the past few weeks, media attention has shined on three interesting innovations:

1. Kleenex recently recently released Kleenex Anti-Viral , which, the manufacturer claims, will kill germs in the tissue.

2. Wizmark has taken the trusty old urinal cake and turned it into an advertising medium. The State of New Mexico is placing them in bars in an effort to reduce drunk driving. But the folks at the company want to sell advertising. If the radio/internet thing doesn’t work out for me, this could be my next sales job. Thanks to John Carlton for tipping me off to this.

3. Auto insurance is auto insurance, right? You pay your premium, and when you wreck the car they write you a check. So the companies have to fight it out in a marketplace that too often views them as generic. American Family has come up with a new service for their policy-holders: they have partnered with Drivecam to offer video cameras mounted in the car. The product is aimed at teenage drivers — or more accurately, at their parents. The logic is that behavior changes when the subjects know they’re being observed. So if a teenager knows that sudden accelleration or braking will trigger the camera, he or she will be less likely to drive unsafely. It’s only offered in a few states right now.

I’ve been a Farmers customer for years. Their service has been good, and I’m too lazy to shop premiums. But my older son totalled his car, and my younger son will be driving in a couple of years. If Drivecam comes to Oregon, and American Family is the only company that offers it, would I drag myself off the couch to switch?

You betcha.

It’s not generic anymore.

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2 thoughts on “New Ways to Look at Old Products

  1. Here’s my observation of the 3 examples:

    – Kleenex is doing a great job in reinvention. In addition to your example of product enhancement, they’re latest commercials do a good job of making them more than just a product – they’re part of the story.

    – This urinal cake thing won’t work. It might increase profits from people buying advertising, but it’s not really bringing value to the product. I would guess the person who cares the most about how urinal cake works and who affects the buying decision the most is the janitor. What will make him happy with the product?

    – I like the video cam in the car. Makes perfect sense.