While driving his expensive motor home during the winter in New England, his windshield wipers kept collecting ice. Aggravated that he had to lean out his window while driving this $250,000.00 vehicle and bang the ice and snow off of the wipers, endangering himself and other drivers, he decided to invent a heated windshield wiper. It would certainly be a safer alternative.
Inventing this heated wiper was no easy task. His patented technology involved special elastomers and heating devices that would operate over a wide temperature range and not burn out. The wipers also had to be easy to install and users had to be willing to pay over $100.00 for a pair.
My assignment was to test market these new heated windshield wipers on a very low budget. People wouldn’t be searching for this solution. It was challenging because if I photographed the wipers on a motor home, that would limit his potential exposure to editors who only had an interest in motor homes. So, we borrowed a windshield from an autoparts dealer and staged a generic photograph with fake ice and snow which illustrated the chief benefits of the wiper: it melted the snow, prevented ice buildup and cleared the windshield. Then I wrote a very concise press release about this innovative product.
Most importantly, my next step was to create a list of media outlets that might be interested in heated windshield wipers. I figured they would include publications (this experience preceded the Web) in several major markets including aviation, trucking, buses, police, fire, municipalities, loggers, etc. My thought was that editors would pass judgment on the heated wiper and either publish it as “product news” or they wouldn’t.
Effectively, each editor represented a significant constituency. If they did select my press release about the heated wiper and publish a brief story about it, then they would pass judgment on its usefulness for their market. Most importantly, thousands of readers would then see the product news and seek more information if they were interested. This method of using product publicity to uncover new markets works because news is objectively presented by editors to their readers and can be measured by actual reader response rates. Given the web and social media, this would have been even more effective today because the process involves measuring website traffic or ecommerce sales.
Ironically, the market for which the product was invented didn’t exist. As it turned out, most folks with motor homes were down South during the winter! The publicity revealed it was the safety concerns of truckers, fleet administrators, police and fire departments, and municipal motor pools that justified the expense of the heated wipers.
© 2014 Steven M. Stroum