If You Build It, They Still May Not Come, Even Though They Should

I came across a really cool new product last week that I wanted to share for two reasons. One it is a really cool (ok I said that) and two, I think there is a marketing lesson in this product. 

The product is the BIC Duo. It is a ball pen and highlighter in one product. Wait, before you say, “been there seen that.” Not like this one you haven’t. The pen and the highlighter are on the same end of the pen. In other words, no flipping the pen over to write with one side and then the other, and it is very stylish. If you use highlighters and pens, you should check it out. bic-duo.jpg

Now, what is the marketing lesson? Well, I assume you have not heard of this product. I hadn’t and nobody I have talked with has either. It is relatively new. It was launched in the U.S. last year. However, it did not get much (any?) fanfare. Well to be fair, it did get voted product of the year by Reader’s Digest and it got a mention on the Today Show and Fox & Friends. I think the reason it did not get as much traction as it should have is because the company behind it, BIC, generally makes great, incrementally innovative products.  

That is, the vast majority of their products are incremental innovations on existing products. They are noteworthy by their quality, consistency, and improvement over existing solutions. BIC, for the most part, does not try to create significant innovations. Well, the Duo is. So why didn’t they shout it from the roof tops? 

I don’t know, but I suspect this is an example of what happens in most companies. We have processes designed to support the businesses we are in. If we come up with something outside that box, we do not have the processes in place to deal with that, or the ability to understand, as well as we should, that there may be something different necessary to get to a different place. 

Is this a problem? Often, but not necessarily. I believe BIC will eventually get traction with this product, it is just really cool (ok, I keep saying that) and they appear to have patents pending on it, so others will be precluded from a quick copy. Could they have accelerated the acceptance curve? Maybe, it depends on whether others find it as compelling as I do (it’s in my pocket now, having replaced my Mont Blanc). And even then, not necessarily within the budget or process they normally use. Could they have found a way around that?  

Again, probably. And maybe they are up to something as we speak. Or they may be having retailer acceptance issues. We all know that retailers have a lot of clout these days as to what gets placement in a plan-o-gram and maybe BIC has not been able to persuade enough retailers to give it the “shelf space” it deserves. They don’t invite me to their marketing meetings, so I don’t know. But they could certainly use viral methods like YouTube or other similar techniques to get the word out without needing a Super Bowl ad (or budget). 

Anyway great product and useful lesson for us all.

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2 Responses to If You Build It, They Still May Not Come, Even Though They Should

  1. Bayard Bookman says:

    Well, the issue of “without fanfare” (or not much anyway) may be reflective of huge gaps in BIC’s overall marketing and sales program for this truly useful product (it does work and it’s easy to use). The flip side of the product’s package states “highlighter refill sold separately,” thereby explicitly stating that the highlighter portion is indeed refillable and that it can be bought . . . somewhere. And therein lies the challenge; the four online business products retailers that carried the ‘Duo’ not only did not have the refills, they weren’t even aware that the pen is refillable! It was therefore no surprise that they had no idea where or how to obtain them. Now, there’s a great product marketing program for you! Finally (OK, hold the “duh,” please) I went to the BIC Web site, found the “BIC Refills.com Order form” page, downloaded the form and mailed it in with my check (boy, lots of Web tech stuff here!). That was on October 3; the refills should arrive any day now (it is now only October 10 so no ding there, yet; they’re probably waiting for my check to clear). We’ll see . . .

  2. jo baldwin says:

    Is it a new item that will greatly increase productivity and efficiency, or simply another “gotta have”? No matter how great, like so many other things we have today it will eventually find its way to the land fill. (Oh, I am sometimes referred to as Ms. Curmudgeon because of my jaundiced eyes.)

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