Feeling the Creative Sizzle

Feeling the Creative SizzleThere’s a saying in marketing, “It’s not the steak, it’s the sizzle.” In other words, people do not really buy a product. Rather, they buy the emotions and feelings associated with the product. Steak is not bought because it’s a chunk of beef. But, because if it is well cooked, it will taste delicious (if you are not a vegetarian, anyway!)

Sales and marketing people know this. That’s why car advertising, for example, focuses on the feelings associated with the car, rather than raw statistics about why one car is better than another. Volvos usually markets its car as safe vehicles: they are not selling an engine and four wheels, but security for you and your family. BMW, on the other hand, touts the pleasure of driving a well engineered performance car. This is, of course, old hat in marketing. However, it is often ignored when it comes to product and service innovation.

Anticonventional thinking sessions, brainstorms, ideas campaigns and other ideation activities tend to focus on general product improvement challenges. We tend to ask “How can we make our steaks juicer?” Or, “How can we package our steaks to retain freshness longer?” We seldom ask, “How can we provide our customers with better sizzle?” So, it is up to the marketing people to take the new product concepts and sell the sizzle. Fortunately, marketing people tend to be good at that sort of thing. Unfortunately, companies that fail to innovate the sizzle miss out on a lot of opportunities.

For instance, you might ask how to provide the sizzle to a vegetarian. More and more families include one or more vegetarians together with meat eaters. Yet, as a vegetarian, I can assure that most of the vegetarian meat substitutes (like veggie burgers) are less than appealing. Or, you might ask how you can enhance the sizzle and develop a range off sauces to serve with your steaks.

Business Sizzle

Even in the world of business to business (B2B) sales, feelings are critical in selling products and services. You don’t hire a law firm, you hire security and reassurance. You don’t hire a web development firm because of the programming experience of the team — but for the way in which they project your corporate image.

If are running a business and wish to expand your product and service line, ask yourself: “in what other ways could we provide a similar sizzle to our clients?” This could throw up some unexpected ideas that are outside your area of expertise, but which make sense.

For instance, if you are in the training business and your primary work is to provide leadership training to up and coming managers; and you wish to expand your services, your initial reaction might be to look for other training courses you could offer — after all, you are a training company. But the sizzle you provide your clients is giving young managers confidence to lead people. You also give the senior managers the confidence that young managers will be able to manage their teams better. So, you should look for training courses that expand upon the feeling of confidence you give managers. You might also try something completely different, like partnering with a tailor/dressmaker to provide new managers with clothes that make them feel confident. Or you might sell subscriptions to health and fitness centres to ensure that desk-bound leaders stay in good health and look good, which is also important to confidence.

Such services would be outside your realm of expertise, but you can partner with other firms to provide complementary sizzle. Such arrangements could work for all the partners.

And if you are launching a new business, use your creativity to define not only your product, but the sizzle it will provide. This will help you define your product more creatively as well as ensure it is more market friendly than if you only focus on the technical details of your product.

image credit: ignition image from bigstock

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    Jeffrey BaumgartnerJeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to brainstorming.

Jeffrey Baumgartner




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  1. Mark A Hart on January 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    The masterful innovator goes beyond debating the sizzle OR the steak. They provide more than ‘creative’ marketing efforts. They expect more than product reviews that reinforce features, advantages, and benefits.

    A masterful innovator develops strategies built on the interplay of sizzle AND the steak.

    Clayton Christensen and others have encapsulated this in a “jobs to be done” paradigm. The communication suggests that users can employ the company’s products to achieve desirable outcomes for their situations. The message is that ‘product’ is designed and manufactured to a sufficient quality to enable users to be successful.

    The sizzle and the steak are baseline conditions for the user to have the potential get the job done.

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