What Coin and Tile can teach us about product launches

If we met at Starbucks, and I started babbling in apoplectic terms about a pair of new technology products – one that consolidates all of your credit and debit cards into a single physical card, and another that allows you to keep track of oft-misplaced or stolen items electronically – you would probably attribute my enthusiasm to the double espresso.

After all, the two products, as described above, sound like variations of a litany of other technologies already on the market. However, both are generating buzz that is extending beyond the self-professed early technology adopters, and are now burning up the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts of mainstream consumers.

The first product is Coin, which allows you to integrate credit cards, debit cards and gift cards into a single card (or as Coin calls it, a connected device) that can be used for purchases at restaurants, retail stores, and conceivably anywhere. The second is Tile™, a matchbook-sized Bluetooth Low Energy device that can be attached to or affixed to most anything – keys, purses, bicycles – to track the whereabouts of these items if misplaced or stolen.

For startups and technology companies – particularly those marketing to the consumer mass market – the early attention for Coin and Tile offer instructive guidance on how to generate attention and sales.

Don’t overcomplicate the message

Coin and Tile are innovative products with some impressive technology capabilities built-in. But they are resonating with the non-tech audience because the marketing message focuses on the very basic and relatable challenges they are trying to solve.

For Coin, it is ending the need for consumers to carry around a wallet full of payment cards. Tile solves the issue of tracking items such as keys, bikes that are lost or stolen. Coin and Tile each have features and capabilities beyond the core functions, but avoid a common mistake in marketing to consumers: don’t overcomplicate the message. Too many startups and technology companies use marketing to show off as many R&D and “gee-whiz” technology. Consumers will need more details on how the products handle security and privacy, among other things, and those are layered supporting messages that should be at the ready.

Market the “killer feature”

In the same way that killer apps can draw consumers and business users to a product, killer features can have that same powerful effect. Coin and Tile have kept the marketing message simple, but have also smartly pushed 1-2 features compelling enough to generate customers. One of the more innovative Tile features is the ability to crowdsource the recovery of stolen or lost items. For example, if your bicycle is stolen, the Tile attached to the bike will ping any Tile mobile app user that is nearby the bike, and then send a discreet message to the bike owner on the item’s location. This type of feature aims squarely at security-conscious individuals, as well as others intrigued by the notion of crowdsourcing the retrieval of both stolen and lost items.

Play media devil’s advocate

Consumer products attempting to disrupt a market must expect skepticism on whether their approach is realistic and reasons others launching similar offerings have failed. Startups and technology must play devil’s advocate when marketing the product and features. Anticipate vulnerabilities around security, demand, price and other potential red flags.

For Coin, the elephant in the room is similar to concerns around personal cloud services that aggregate a person’s financial and person information in a single location. For Coin users, the notion of placing all their credit and debit card information on a single card requires eclipsing a similar psychological hurdle. The company addresses this issue head-on by communicating built-in security measures to protect card misuse. This level of security will not be sufficient for every consumer, but anticipating security and privacy concerns rather than reacting to them on the fly decreases the likelihood of these issues blowing up and undermining a product launch before it even gets off the ground.  

Coin and Tile are not simply succeeding in creating buzz for the sake of creating buzz. They are creating customers and revenues; in the case of Tile they have nearly 5,000 “backers” who have pre-ordered Tiles totaling more than $2.6 million. Those are real numbers suggesting that when it comes to marketing your firm’s consumer-facing product, the term “keep it simple stupid” truly does apply.

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