Marketing Innovation – Going to Extremes

Marketing Innovation - Going to ExtremesWhat do you say when you have nothing new to say? That is the dilemma marketers face in mature categories where the product’s features and benefits are well understood. Even more challenging is when your product is virtually the same as the competition. Running ads to remind the market what they already know is wasteful and potentially annoying. But you can’t risk being invisible to the market or you will lose brand awareness.

That’s where the Extreme Effort Tool comes in handy. The tool works by exaggerating the effort one must go to use the product. Instead of promoting a particular benefit, the tool emphasizes the overall attractiveness and desirability. It is an efficient way to keep your product in the mind’s of the audience and stand out in a busy marketplace.

The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials. Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” and provide a step-by-step approach to using them.

The tools are:
1. Unification
2. Activation
3. Metaphor
4. Subtraction
5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
7. Inversion
8. Extreme Effort

Here is an example from Kohler:

There are two ways to use the tool. One is to show the extreme effort customers will go to use or acquire the product, as in the Kohler commercial. The other is to show the extreme effort the company will go to provide or deliver the product. This is particularly good for service companies as they can demonstrate, in an extreme, outlandish way, the lengths they will go to deliver that service. Here is an example:

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at and at

Drew Boyd




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