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August 4, 2013

This woman with an unpronounceable name will teach you about marketing – and fixing stuff

4 minute read, in Marketing

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh of Sugru

I threw out a great pair of shoes once after only a year. Just as the leather uppers were achieving buttery softness, the soles wore right through.

Sadly, there was no easy way to get them fixed, because they were made from injection moulded rubber.

So I pitched them in the trash and rued the fact they don’t make things like they used to (as though I could remember when they did).

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh (say that three times fast! Heck, say it once at any speed.) is doing her part to put a stop to this kind of disposable consumerism.

Her product, Sugru, is a malleable substance that hardens into a rubbery compound that is both flexible and durable. In Jane’s words…

I knew it needed to be colorful; it needed to be a pleasure to use; it needed to be safe; it needed to stick to lots of different types of materials because most adhesives only stick to one thing; and it had to feel like magic.
from: The Great Discontent

Sugru can be used to adapt, modify, repair and improve the things we lovingly use each day.

Sugru’s website is chock full of examples from people all over the world chronicling creative ways they’ve used it to extend the life of the stuff they cherish.

Along the way, they’re modelling some marketing lessons we could all learn from.

Here are three examples:

1. Share your story

Sugru does a great job of sharing their story. Not only what it is and how to use it, but how it came to be.

The story of how Sugru went from Jane’s grad school dream to a product used on all 7 continents is the heroic tale of a visionary clinging to her dream despite all odds against its success.

I couldn’t read the story without getting a little misty eyed. And it’s one of many things that makes me want to talk about the product with others.

Do you have a story to tell?

Was there a frustration or epiphany that led to the formation of your service?
Were there regulatory hoops you had to jump through to get your product to market?
Did you have to make an about face in your mission?

You may not have overcome such extreme odds as Jane and Sugru. But your story can help people connect to the humanity behind your business, see your product in the context of their own story, and give them something to talk about.

2. Have a mission

Jane started Sugru from a simple (though difficult to realize) mission…

“I don’t want to buy new stuff all the time. I want to hack the stuff I already have so it works better for me.”

The product is much more than something you pull off the shelf, use up and toss away.

It’s part of the hacker’s toolbox. A medium with which to personalize the things you already have. To make them what their creators never imagined they could be (but you can).

This spirit of fixing, adapting and improving makes Sugru something we can all talk about, even if we never buy it.

Because who doesn’t have something that they merely like, but would actually love – If only it (fill in the blank)?

Whether you’re trying to change the world, or just improve the quality of someone’s weekend, your offering will resonate with more people if it taps into a larger purpose, mission or universal human experience.

3. Invite people to play with you

Sugru has written a fixer’s manifesto. You can download it as a pdf to print and tack it to your wall.

You can also download it as a text file or EPS, so you can ‘fix’ it yourself if you want to. As the website explains…

We spent ages on it, arguing over what was important and what wasn’t – crafting, editing and tweaking. But fixing is something people feel strongly about, so we’re pretty sure you won’t agree with all of it, and you’ll want to fix it.

Point is, Sugru’s igniting a movement around fixing. And inviting us to participate, share and even shape the discussion within our own communities.

They’ve created marketing that others can own. And that spreads the message even further.

These are not mere marketing ‘tactics’, these are each ways to think about the power of your product – and your marketing – to be transformative.

Minds, hearts, lives could actually change as a result of interaction with you.

With this kind of value baked-in, there’s no way people will NOT spread the word.

Here is Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh’s short introduction to Sugru.

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