If you are one of the mesmerized millions who have tuned into the hit reality show American Inventor, you probably witnessed the importance of first impressions and the power of branding. It only took seconds for the panel of judges to start formulating opinions on the worth and merit of the inventions, often based on nothing more than the product name and a brief introduction.
A good example was the child psychologist who created an invention she named a “Tizzy”. These were inflatable/foam devices that kids could put on, and bounce around in, without hurting themselves or others. Right away the impression was that it was some form of punishment. The one female judge, Mary Lou Quinlin, took special offense to the “Tizzy” and used words like “suffocating” when describing her opinion of the idea. She took the aspiring inventor to task and questioned her credentials, asking how she could possibly create such a horrible thing. You could see she had formed that impression the very second the child psychologist introduced the idea…”The Tizzy”. A kid having a “tizzy” is a kid that needs to be disciplined or reprimanded. So she could only view the product in a punitive, restrictive sense. Needless to say the inventor, with all her years of study and training, was in tears from the misunderstanding. She loved kids and developed the whole idea as a way to allow children to express their energy safely.
Now what if we could rewind the tape and instead she had introduced the product in a very upbeat way and called them…
And then, let’s say she talked about how all kids need a positive outlet for their abundant energy, and how this was a fantastic way for them to safely play and interact with other children. She could have taken it one step further and added a quick tag line/positioning statement such as…
“Play Hard. Play Smart. Play Safe!”
By seizing control of the thought process from the outset and leading the way, it would have been very difficult for the judges to form the opposite opinion — to think of words like “suffocating” and “stifling.” Perhaps safety questions would still have been asked, such as “Do the kids have enough breathing space?” or “Do the outfits come in bigger sizes?” But the tone would have been completely different. It would have been open, inviting and inquiring vs. angry, harsh and judgmental. Just suggesting a “Play Pal” is a dangerous/horrible idea sounds contradictory. By creating a name with positive benefits you put the power of words to work in your favor, adding momentum to your idea, instead of derailing it.
So inventing is not just about having a great idea. It’s about packaging that idea with the right language to establish the right mindset. If not, a great invention can really bomb, just for lack of framing the idea properly. So when inventing a great product, it’s just as important to invent a great name and tag line. Even if you’re not quite convinced… “Just Do It!”