Ginger was the code name given to a secret device that many corporate celebrities announced would change the world. Steven Jobs and John Doerr both said it.
I’ve ridden one, now called a Segway, and I agree with the corporate celebrities. It is a wonderful and highly useful device.
But Segway is about to go out of business. What went wrong?
One large thing went wrong. Engineering.
No, not the engineering of the Segway device. The engineering mentality of the creator, Dean Kamen and his friends. The best, most useful, brilliant device in the world can be put on the market and it may not be a successful product just because it is available. Great engineering won’t make a product successful.
The core of marketing is It is hard, nearly impossible, to change human behavior. That is why we have written a book about how to do marketing the right way …. not by advertising.
Yes, people will buy a better mousetrap. That is because their behavior doesn’t have to change ... they are already using mousetraps.
Chapter 7 in Marketing Without Advertising is about educating your customers. We don’t deal with a particular education problem: No business can afford to educate customers about a product no one has ever used before.
Kamen was a very logical engineer. He offered the Segway at a good price on Amazon, no distributors to waste time with, and got some serious organizations like the US Post Office and several police departments to try out the Segway. He also hired lobbyists to get every major city to permit Segways on sidewalks. (Perverse San Francisco did the opposite and banned them on sidewalks.)
Kaman and Segway have failed, or nearly failed. Someone will buy the company and re-introduce a variation of the product..
Using Marketing Without Advertising this is what we would have done to make the Segway a success.
Forget hype. The market you want discounts hype 100%.
Distribute the first few hundred machines to athletic groups, like college polo teams or soccer teams and pay them to develop games with the device.
Offer a few hundred more, around the country, to some bicycle clubs, skate boarders, extreme sports stars and surfers. Let the young, adventurous people in our society, who are not behavior bound, find new, useful and most importantly, fun, roles for the Segway.
Once some useful, fun roles and models are visible, then we would set up a distribution network that parallels the new Segway usage patterns. If snowboarders are the first people to love the Segway and use it, then use the snowboard distribution channels.
Hypothetically you would go to snowboard shops set up retail outlets, and in the same location, create rental companies so people can try out the Segway before they buy. Definitely create repair shops, in the same location, so people know that the device can be repaired quickly and locally.
With this marketing plan, Segway would succeed very rapidly. No engineering mind, just an open commercial mind.