Roomba. Snuggie. Vapur. Topsy Turvy. Oona. These products share more than peculiar names. Each is an innovation that used effective marketing strategies to turn their product into a household name. Read on to see how different methods helped these one of a kind products achieve the same goal: consumer acceptance and sales.
iRobot never intended to call its first consumer product, the self-vacuuming Roomba, a robot. But when every article and review of the product described it as such, iRobot ran with it. With more than six million sold since 2002, iRobot has redefined not only what a vacuum looks like, but what a robot is as well. "If you asked someone today, 'what is a robot?' they wouldn't say Commander Data on Star Trek anymore," says the company's CEO, Colin Angle. "They probably would say, ‘that vacuuming thing.' And that’s good for us."
It didn't take long for the Snuggie to transform from just another "As Seen on TV" product into a pop culture phenomenon. After the company launching its first marketing campaign in late 2008, parodies that spoofed the sleeved blanket appeared everywhere from YouTube to NBC’s 30 Rock. The Snuggie's designer, AllStar Products, was in on the joke. The company behind several inventive consumer products designed the Snuggie's quirky name and comedic commercials to get consumers laughing and—more importantly—talking about their product.
Simply describing the product was the first hurdle for Vapur, a "fold and go" plastic water bottle that contracts and expands with water levels. "We thought about calling it a water skin," says co-founder Jason Carignan. "But people like the word bottle." Instead, Vapur described itself as the anti water bottle, promoting the green quality of carrying around a durable, but more convenient bottle. With more than one million water bottles sold in two years, Vapur is capitalizing on the growing popularity of reusable water bottles, partnering with brands such as Eddie Bauer and Tommy Bahama to gain ubiquity.
Topsy Turvy Planters turn a garden upside down, allowing water and nutrients to soak into your hanging fruits and vegetables from the roots above. When marketing the backward planters, AllStar Products produced direct-TV advertisements that explained why consumers couldn't live without the Topsy Turvy in their own garden. Their answer was simple: it grows more delicious produce. Consumers seemed to agree, buying more than 10 million to date. "When I drive around, they're everywhere," says AllStar's CEO Scott Boilen.
For creators Brad Leong, Scott Gordon, and Danny Fukuma, marketing The Oona was simple. Their innovative smartphone stand could be anything the customer wanted to be: a stand for using a phone as an alarm clock, or, say, a windshield suction cup for using a phone as a GPS. After designing a prototype and producing a demonstrative video, the three twenty-somethings set up a Kickstarter account with at $10,000 goal. One month later, the Oona earned $127,358 with 3,792 backers—one of Kickstarter’s top 10 all-time highs. —Drew Gannon