Imagine a company coming up one day, somewhat lost with say 6 or 7 products to introduce to the market, suffering from internal struggles as to which product should be focused on. It’s a very competitive market and they are number two. The leader has been steadily keeping its market share for a while but is losing its edge. However, it is known that they are going for a new launch in about 6 months; only no one knows whether it is going to be a new product, a 2.0 of their bestseller or maybe a whole range.
Our challenger then just decides they have got 6 months to take the market over. But how? In the most rational fashion, yet one not so common these days.
First, they advertise to everyone: “on a certain day, you will be able to choose which of our products deserve to live!”
Second, they go to meet their audience – not just their customers, also their nay-sayers – and present them the products, all their characteristics and features, totally openly and publicly.
Third, they put the products on a stand and ask their audience: for a symbolic Euro, you get to decide for the one which we will take to market and in a way, for the future of our company and the industry.
And finally, they stick to their word and only launch the one the audience selected.
That company got millions of people to elect the product they wanted. The campaign itself was a huge success. But here is the best part:
6 months: one would have thought the company was short of time, surely? The campaign to design and select the product was the only thing the market was talking about for months, making the final product hugely known and taking the incumbent by surprise. It was the best advertising results they could get.
Internal struggles: the company was short of resources then? Instead of scattering their resources on several efforts, they could get all their means focused on one product, without any dissidence since the market had pointed an incontrovertible finger towards what it was ready to pay for. Total internal alignment to the service of that product!
The company was short of money? Here is pure genius at work. By asking the audience to pay a very minimal, symbolic fee of one Euro (or one Ruble, or one Dollar) in exchange of the right to vote, our challenger escaped a common bias of questionnaires, one which consists of people answering their honest-to-god-truth about what they would do in a given situation, but they probably won’t once facing said situation in real life. (eg: “an old lady gets mugged by a youngster 20 pounds lighter than you. What do you do?” Answer: “I’ll go”. Fact: “I hope I can pass by without being noticed”. Or worse, I pull out my phone cam)
In other words with that tiny, symbolic cost and barrier, they get people to commit. Voters do commit, this commitment costs them so it becomes dear to them: they will stick to it, more than if they did not have to pay at all. There is a larger commitment gap between 0 and 1 dollar than there is between 1 and 5 dollars. On the launch day, if these voters need such a product, they will come and buy the one they voted for and now even feel closer to (“hey, I made it happen!”).
But the company also made this campaign cash-flow positive before the product was even launch. Having people vote for the product they wanted, not only did the company focus on the relevant effort, saved time in lengthy internal resource allocation discussions and meetings, but ended up richer than they were prior to the campaign.
Alignment, focus, trust of the audience, better known, richer, and sure to present their best alternative to the incumbent. Who wouldn’t want to be in that position before, say, a presidential election if they were the candidate?
What I describe above is precisely what the Socialist Party did in France. In order to select their candidate, the left-wing just ran a business-school textbook marketing operation they could teach in a MBA, jointly designing a product with their potential customers – and their opponents: they could vote, too – putting a totally disorganized party right in marching order in less than 6 months and making money out of the process while increasing loyalty – that is, decreasing abstention. I am not taking side, but one must admit: on that very occasion, lefties did it better.