From Edison to Bezos: Marketing History Says a Single-Market Focus is the Way to Launch Products

From Edison to Bezos: Marketing History Says a Single-Market Focus is the Way to Launch Products

September 24, 2018

Following years of research and development, and after investing a small fortune, you’re finally ready to bring your game-changing product to market. So, how do you go about initiating a successful launch? Your instincts may tell you to promote all your product’s features and benefits to every single applicable market. It may seem counter-intuitive to ignore features or applications.

But a better strategy—and time tested from Edison to Bezos—is to simply narrow your marketing focus to a single use-case, and then expand from there following a successful deployment. It was Thomas Edison who did just this when he worked to bring electricity and lighting into people’s homes. It was Jeff Bezos who did this when he launched Amazon exclusively as a bookstore.

Today’s companies can learn a lot about launching a revolutionary product from history’s most prolific innovators.


A Product with Infinite Uses

Consider all of the current uses for residential electricity. We use it to light our homes, power our appliances and devices, even charge some of our cars. It’s hard to imagine daily life without electricity, although anyone who has been inconvenienced by temporary power outages understands just how fundamental the utility is to our existence. But in 1878, electricity and lighting were primarily the domain of commercial and industrial enterprises. The typical home in the United States wasn’t wired for electricity, and the average person had no idea of all its benefits. Enter Thomas Edison.


Narrowing His Marketing Focus

Edison invented the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb in 1879 and envisioned just how it and residential electricity could fundamentally reshape people’s lives. He also developed the first large-scale investor-owned electric utility, located in lower Manhattan. But how do you sell the public on electric power? He could have marketed all of its uses, proclaiming the fact that it could power electric equipment and devices, both at that time and in the future. After all, he had already invented the record-playing phonograph in 1877, and residential electricity would give people the opportunity to play music at home. But while Edison understood all of the applications for electricity, he also knew that narrowing his focus to a single use would best captivate and entice the public at large. So, that’s exactly what he did.

Historians don’t revere Edison simply for his huge catalog of inventions, but also for his genius at getting people to use them. He sold electricity as a way of powering his lightbulbs. He promoted electrical illumination as safer than candles and oil lamps, giving humans a way to see and live at night for the first time ever. Slowly but surely, the public got on board. Homes were wired for electricity to first power lightbulbs, and then, everything else. The rest is history.


Learning from The Master

Today’s entrepreneurs and innovators can take a page out of Edison’s playbook when it comes to marketing their products by concentrating on a single key utilization. Jeff Bezos followed in Edison’s footsteps when he launched Amazon, now worth almost $1 trillion in market capitalization. Bezos had always envisioned the platform as a way of selling everything from A to Z, but when Amazon first launched it did so with a single purpose: to sell books. Once Bezos dominated the book market, he expanded into music and video, and eventually to just about everything else.

While your product may indeed provide solutions to endless challenges, consider targeting a niche market and application with your launch. Do that well and you could be on your way to making history.

As you think about your next product launch, what market can you focus on first? What challenges will exist to focusing on only one market?

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