I ran across a thought-provoking blog post that I hope will challenge the way you develop and market your new products.

The article is A Word of Advice on Your Next Product Launch by Chris Ronzio, Founder and CEO of management consulting firm Organize Chaos.

The four elements of successful product launches

Ronzio shares what he learned from three unsuccessful new product launches. (He got it right on the fourth try.) He has come to believe that “successful launches share a few common elements”:

  1. a great story
  2. a great offer
  3. scarcity
  4. validation

Storytelling is the most important element

How to launch new products with storytellingAll four elements are important. But, in my opinion,  storytelling is the most important – and the most under-utilized element.

According to Ronzio, “Customers often connect to the story behind a product. Successful launches tell customers how and why you came up with the product or service. They also clearly indicate the problem you’re solving for your target audience.”

How to use storytelling to build brand

In the past couple of years, a couple of scrappy start-ups have successfully challenged firmly-entrenched market leaders and shaken up decidedly mature categories. The categories are mattresses and men’s razors. The companies are Tuft & Needle and Casper in mattresses and Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club in men’s razors. All four companies succeeded in large part because they harnessed the power of story. Dollar Shave Club was so successful that Unilever recently bought this five-year-old start-up for $1 billion.

Tuft and Needle tells the story about how and why the two founders decided to form their company. The story is told in such a way that anyone who has ever purchased a mattress from a retail store can immediately relate to it.

Tuft and Needle uses storytelling to build the brand“JT had just gotten married and he and his wife set out to buy their first piece of furniture together–a new mattress. The search began at local mattress showrooms; vast fields of mattresses neatly laid out under the buzz of fluorescent lights. Pushy salesmen pushed them to buy a fully loaded, feature-rich memory foam mattress. For $3,300 it should have been the pinnacle of comfort, but it wasn’t. To make matters worse, the return policy rendered it impossible to return. It was like car shopping. Actually, it was worse than car shopping. At work the next day, he shared his story with Daehee. The two friends from college had been working together at a company in Palo Alto, and unsurprisingly had similar experiences. There was work to be done. We believe that business can be honest and premium products don’t need remote controls and payment plans. Especially not mattresses.”

Casper tells a compelling story about the benefits of buying a mattress directly from them.

Caspers use of storytelling to build brand“We believe you should actually sleep on a mattress to decide if you like it. Trying a mattress for 30 seconds in a gimmicky showroom isn’t a smart way to find a bed. We sell the Casper mattress direct to consumers, eliminating the inflated, commission-driven prices and the inefficiencies of real estate and salespeople. Instead, we give you 100 nights to sleep on the Casper in your own home to decide if you like it.”

Harry’s tells a compelling “best value for the money” story.

Harry's use of storytelling to build brand“Like most of you, we’ve long had to choose between overpriced razors that disrespect your intelligence and cheap razors that disrespect your face. We knew there had to be a better way, so we created Harry’s as a return to the essential: a great shave at a fair price.”

Dollar Shave Club also tells a “best value for the money” story while poking fun at the market leaders’ over-featured and overpriced razors.

Dollar Shave Club use of storytelling to build brand“For a dollar a month, we send high-quality razors right to your door. … Do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? $19 goes to Roger Federer. … Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher, and ten blades? … Stop paying for shave tech you don’t need.”

All four of these companies were Goliaths going up against giants. They were trying to enter mature product categories dominated by firmly entrenched corporations that spend millions of dollars on advertising and product development. Like Goliath, they slew the giant. Not by outspending the market leaders but by using the power of well-crafted and compelling stories that resonated with consumers.

How can you use story to get your customers to care about your product? Do you have an interesting story about how and why you came up with the product? How can you use the power of story to clearly indicate the problem you’re solving for your target audience?