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Designs for Vintage Products: WordLock Defies Modern Day Houdinis
(Marketing Memo, October, 2005)
has introduced WordLock, a combination padlock that people open by dialing
their choice of four- or five-letter words and not a forgettable combination
of pre-set numbers. WordLock has five chambers, each with ten letters,
for a total of 100,000 possible combinations.
by three locks that kept his son out of the swimming pool, inventor
Todd Basche designed WordLock in 1998. Basche built a prototype, and
by 2003 he had received a patent. But, lock companies were not interested
in the lock. Fortunately, Basche learned about Staples' 2004 Invention
Quest contest, which attracted over 8,000 inventors. The winner had
to last until the finals and receive the most email "votes."
Basche won with 147,000 votes. A Northeastern University graduate, Basche
recently became General Manager of Trymedia Systems, Inc. (www.trymedia.com).
or the creation of new ideas is about the consumer's [or user's] experience.
You can "improve anything," but you must first "get out of your headset,"
Basche advised by phone:
beyond high tech." Consider markets that have stagnated for 50-100
years because of lack of innovation, and envision user-centered product
the market. Basche researched user interest, market size/segments,
a design that requires little retooling. WordLock and conventional
locks both use ten-position tumblers. Basche's patented software selects
the letters and order for each tumbler.
the product in a professional way. Compose an elevator pitch to answer,
"What does the product do?" "For Whom?" "How is it different?" "What
will manufacturing cost?" "Who owns the intellectual property?" Basche
also developed a "sell sheet" and a web site (www.wordlock.com).
partnerships. Licensing WordLock to Staples gave Basche access to
Staples' considerable manufacturing and marketing resources, plus
its distribution channel.
marketed WordLock creatively. Lessons learned from the Staples approach
products realistically. At $5.98, WordLock costs 6% more than a Master
the "new" product creatively. Staples exploited word of mouth or viral
marketing. Contest entrants had to solicit votes. Staples forged a
link with contestants, customers, and prospects that had an interest
in the contest. The contest and the publicity it generated also sparked
interest in the winning products.
channels. Staples is selling WordLock and other consumer products
in Stop and Shop.
new target markets. WordLock has potential beyond school and health
is working on three new products and helping Staples find new WordLock
Associates provides market research and writing services.
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