by Alyson Dutch
I don’t know about you, but I just love Richard Branson.
You know, Richard Branson, creator of the Virgin brand? The master of entrepreneurialism? The kid who never finished high school? The man who freaks out his bankers every couple of years when he walks in and says, “Hey guys, I need some cash to start an space travel airline…I know I’m in the music business, but I have an idea…” He’s the cat who has created everything from record stores to wedding dresses, airlines to cola beverages.
This guy is the epitome of capitalism; courage in the flesh, really. But, why is it that a guy like Branson is so successful that he can afford to buy a private island in the Caribbean for his family? Is there something better about his ideas than yours? My thought about that can be answered this in the frank words of another one of my favorite cultural icons, Borat – “Naht so much…”
When we study guys like Branson, it’s pretty obvious that he’s got a unique brand of fearlessness. But are his products really so different than anyone else’s?
Is it his brand that creates his success?
Could it be that his personal love of spectacle has something to do with it?
You’re getting warmer.
So, here’s the crux of it – the indomitable Richard Branson throws himself off cliffs, floats hot air balloons across oceans and finances technology to get tourists to the moon. Literally.
Does it take that kind of money and bravado to launch a product successfully?
What is this guy doing?
He’s getting attention.
HE’S SHOUTING LOUDLY.
His antics are creating a high decibel and magnetic broadcast.
Sprint, AT&T, Verizon…they’re all in the cell phone business. What’s so special about Virgin phones?
But the reason why he’s creating success is because he is SHOUTING LOUDER than his competitors.
Now, to be honest, I don’t know if his cell phone business took off or not. And it doesn’t matter because his other product launches have well made up for the dogs.
I’ve met many entrepreneurs over the years. And, like Branson, the ones who succeed are the ones who shout the loudest. Pure and simple.
This may sound like its wrong and maybe even unethical, but success is not tied to the quality of a product. As a matter of fact, your product could be vastly inferior to the competition, but if you have a big mouth and put your focus on letting your customers know about it, you win. Hands down. I’m not saying you should purposely create something that’s inferior, but this is actually a business model for some.
When I first started my PR agency 15 years ago, party planner from South Africa named Colin Cowie asked me to do PR for him. Actually it was because Colin asked me this that I started my company (I am forever indebted to you Mr. Cowie!). As a result, I have had several famous companies in this party planning genre come to my doorstep. One of them was the “Epicurean Spielberg,” Along Came Mary Event Productions in Los Angeles. They were massively well known. Their client list boasted every film studio, every major movie premiere, and folks like Coca Cola and Dom Perignon; but the company was 30 years old without a lot of “newness.” One day, she called asking, “I’m looking at Los Angeles Magazine and there is a 3-page article – with color photos – of some party planner I’ve never heard of. Why aren’t we in there?”
The article turned out to be about a newcomer named Alana Baroni. Although she was new on the party planning scene, she’d written a book about entertaining and that was what got the magazine to report about her.
I’d been diligently working with Along Came Mary to get a book done so that the company had something “new” for the press to report about, but it was stuck in the pipeline and just never saw the light of day. Alana Baroni didn’t have the venerability, the credibility, the clients – anything even close to competing with Along Came Mary, but she was speaking more LOUDLY than her competitor. She DID have a marketing tool and it was getting attention. She wasn’t necessarily any better than Along Came Mary, but because she had this “new” product, she became “news-worthy.” And so the “news” reported about her.
This is what Branson does. He launches a “new” product. He creates some outrageous stunt that becomes “news-worthy” and the attention that comes of this is directed back to his product. He’s shouting loudly.
So, it doesn’t matter if you have a sexy product like these entrepreneurs do, what matters is that you SHOUT LOUDLY to your target customer.
One way to shout loudly is to write a press release and get one out to the press on a regular basis (once a month would be fantastic). How do you find something newsworthy about your product? Here’s a great exercise to unearth a few newsworthy concepts for press releases: Next time you’re with your friends sharing a glass of wine over a meal, ask their opinions about your product. Create a think tank over dinner. Ask them what they think is interesting about your product and write a press release about each of those aspects and get them out to the press.
There is, of course, a gestalt to where you send the press release and it’s based on who your customer is and what they read/see/listen to. Your product might best be reported about in Investor’s Business Daily, Scientific American or the Real Estate section of the Houston Chronicle (instead of Oprah or TIME magazine).
One last thought that makes my point here. This article was titled “Truths on Why Products Fail…” but this is a lesson in getting attention. Were you more attracted by the negative of “failing?” Or the positive of Richard Branson? Which did I put first? And what did I focus on in this article? I never talked about the failing, because it’s obvious that if you don’t“ do what I’m suggesting… oh, I can’t even say it. Gotta go…