Successful Disruptive Innovation :The Importance Of Marketing

Woman with spray container

Are you ready for ‘liquid glass.’

The people at Nanopool hope you are.

After a long period of product innovation, most innovators are delighted and relieved to be able to get their product ‘out there.’

But as we know, product development alone is not enough.

How do you market your innovation successfully, so that you get maximum return on investment and ensure that your product launch will enhance your company’s reputation?

We have respect for those who can develop a disruptive innovation. So hats off to Nanopool for developing ‘liquid glass.’

Is it a true disruptive innovation?

Looks like it. A disruptive innovation uses a new technology and radically transforms product and markets.

So what customer problems does liquid glass solve?

Many - according to the press articles that have emerged this week.

Liquid glass can provide an anti-bacterial coating on surgical implants. It can protect handbags and shoes from stains and dirt. It can put a protective layer on kitchen and bathroom surfaces that means that hot water alone, rather than bleach or cleaning fluids will be sufficient to clean them. Liquid glass can make it easier to clean graffiti off monuments and buildings. Lastly, it can provide a protective coating around seeds to stop them from being attacked by fungus.

Phew! Sounds like magic!

The secret of liquid glass we are told is that when it is sprayed onto items, it forms an ultra-thin film between 15 and 30 molecules thick. It's made by extracting molecules of silicon dioxide from quartz sand.

Who Is The Target Customer And What Do They Want To Know?

However, having seen the range of press articles about the launch, we question whether Nanopool will achieve the success they are looking for with their innovation.

Should the first communication to potential consumers of the product in the UK be these generalised press articles? Most of them apparently slight adaptations from a single press release.

The press release informed the ‘general public’, in general terms, about this new technology and the forthcoming products.

We were told that the product is ‘non-toxic’ and ‘harmless to living things’ but is this the right approach for today’s sceptical consumers?

If product development of a disruptive innovation is challenging. We suggest that effective marketing  of a disruptive innovation is equally challenging and probably more important.

So where is Nanopoole going wrong?


Firstly, the issue of risk.

In general, consumers are risk averse. A disruptive innovation can appear to be an enormously risky purchase to both potential consumers and the buyers in store groups targeted for distribution..

Perhaps reading through the news articles might raise a few questions about the technology for you.  A quick surf on the net meant that we rapidly identified concerns about the technology and the products in which it might be used. These concerns ranged from it being the ‘new asbestos’ to concerns about how it might damage the environment.

Some people expressed serious concerns about nanotechnology, and the fact that nobody really knows what will happen when these minute particles are released into the environment.

What’s more, a quick look at the product specification on the Nanopool website reveals that this technology does not include nanotechnology – despite the name of the company.  This suggests some confusion.

If risk is a primary barrier to consumers purchasing a new product, then confusion is probably a close second.

Added to this must be the concerns of the retailers. If this product delivers on its promise, it is likely that adopters will reduce the amount of cleaning materials they purchase – an enormously profitable category for supermarkets.

The press articles even mention how UK supermarkets are currently refusing to stock Nanopool’s products.

So what could Nanopool be doing better?

Three things.

1.       Research and Insight.

Understand the target market one segment at a time.

There are multiple applications of this technology, possibly multiple products will be launched. In order to maximise the success of each and every one of them, the company will need to truly understand the target consumers in each segment and what they want.

If the start point for some people is that this product is ‘the new asbestos,’ then there is a pretty large communications task to be done just to get the product into the ‘consideration set’, let alone into anyone’s home.

2.       Communication Strategy And Plan.

 Identify what motivates the target consumer about the new technology and what concerns they have about the technology.

Create the core communications strategy and plan which includes carefully crafted messages that will address consumer concerns and provide the reassurance that is needed. Present data where necessary in clear, easy to understand ways.

For most marketers ‘reason to believe’ means providing persuasive reasons that the product will perform as promised.

Nowadays, companies often need ‘reasons to believe’ that adequately reassure with regard to product safety and the environment.

 3.       Pilot, Review, Learn.

 Bring the learning from one launch into the next one – but remain alert to how the attitudes of those in the next segment might be different from earlier ones.

You’re right! This is not rocket science. It’s just good marketing practice. However, it is so much more important with a disruptive technology.

With a launch of a known technology into an established category, marketers can copy or tweak the marketing strategy of a competitor if they so wish. If you’re the first to market with a new technology you have to design a new and effective marketing strategy.

Get it wrong and the technology may fall by the wayside. Worse, a competitor may pick it up and achieve a successful launch. The ‘would-be disruptor’ would have lost out to a ‘follower’ who would get all the innovation credit and rewards – just because they are better at marketing. Where would the justice be in that?

Exactly where it should be!

As we said, we believe marketing an innovation is as important if not even more important than developing the product innovation... Customers and their concerns count.

UK Daily Mail Article:Spray On Liquid Glass 2nd February 2010