Posted by White Rhino

When Google Glass launched to the public in 2014 after a $400 Million investment, it was heralded as the next big thing in wearable technology. But, less than a year later, the product was pulled from shelves. It’s a prime example of the unfortunate reality of innovation. Having a vision for a revolutionary product is not enough. 

The launch campaign for Google Glass struggled to paint a clear picture of its place in consumers’ everyday lives. 

“...though I tried, very hard, to make Glass a part of my life, I simply didn't feel comfortable with the screen hovering just out of my line of sight.” April 2014 Review in The Washington Post

Success and failure in innovation hinge on your ability to help others see themselves in the future you’ve envisioned. The iPod is a perfect case study. It wasn’t the first to market, but its success over other failed MP3 players can be attributed to Apple's ability to envision a new future of music consumption. Steve Jobs didn't just sell a device; he sold an experience, a new way of interacting with music that was so compelling that people wanted to be in this new world. 


Apple painted a picture of freedom and made those iconic earbuds look cool. It wasn't about the device's storage capacity or battery life; it was about having "1,000 songs in your pocket" – a future that was both incredible yet easy to imagine and desire.


The science of visioning.

Consider the intensity in a top athlete’s eyes as they wait in anticipation at the starting line. Its palpable. Turns out, they’re not “waiting.” Instead, they are vividly imagining every step towards victory. They mentally rehearse each movement, envisioning their success with such clarity that it becomes a driving force behind their performance. This mental preparation, a cornerstone in sports psychology, highlights the profound impact of visualization on achieving goals. 

In innovation, there’s certainly no shortage of visionary leaders with unwavering focus on success. But, unlike athletes who operate in relatively controlled environments where they can directly influence outcomes, innovators work within vast, complex marketplaces that aren’t easily influenced.

While the strength of an innovator’s vision is their greatest asset, it can also be their greatest weakness. Their amazing ability to envision a future reality often leads to the assumption that others can easily imagine it as well. 

They usually can’t. 

As creators and marketers, the "curse of knowledge" often ensnares us. This cognitive bias leads us to believe that our audience understands our product as deeply as we do, with all its nuances and features. However, the intricate details that fascinate us may not resonate with or even be comprehensible to our potential customers. 

Meanwhile, deeply engrained habits create significant inertia. Getting people to shift their perspective or embrace new ideas can feel like a steep climb in the Tour de France.  

The brands that win find ways to emotionally connect their customers and product long before a purchase even happens – which, in turn, builds momentum that carries them through to the finish line.

Nike excels at this. Their marketing campaigns frequently highlight stories of athletic success and personal achievement, encouraging consumers to envision themselves reaching their goals. A distant second in global revenue, Adidas focuses less on individual empowerment and more on the intersection of sports with fashion and culture. 

Being #1 like Nike means helping your internal stakeholders and external customers visualize themselves in the future.


Practical steps to envisioning success.

So, how do you make your innovation “real”? How do you inspire people into new behaviors and adoption? How do you make sure your product launches successfully?

It comes down to understanding what your audience values today and demonstrating the connection between those personal values and your innovation in a compelling way.

Most good innovations started with some sort of voice of the customer (VoC) research to identify and solve unrecognized pains. However, most VoC research focuses on conscious pains and functional needs. This is great for determining what an innovation needs to be, but not enough for understanding who to sell it. For that, we need to dig past the conscious needs and into the subconscious values framework that our audience uses to make sense of the world in front of them. How do they view the world today? And how do they identify themselves in this world?

The best way to uncover these deeper motivations is through qualitative research. You’d be surprised what you can learn in just a handful of interviews when you ask the right questions. What was their career path? As a child, what did they want to be when they grew up? What keeps them up a night? And, better yet, what gets them out of bed in the morning?

Over the years, the nuanced insights we’ve uncovered from interviews like this have made a big difference. For example, uncovering that many Chief Security Officers have a background in law enforcement, which heavily influences how they perceive their role as a “protector” of the business. Or understanding the immense satisfaction a urologist gets from blasting a kidney stone into dust. 

Once you’ve identified the common personal connections to your innovation, there’s a proven formula you can follow to connect your envisioned future to your audience’s current reality. With the right story arc, even the most aloof concepts can become irresistible to your audience. 

Take, for example, this video we developed for Microsoft to talk about the sustainability of datacenters. 


Datacenters, the backbone of cloud computing, rarely spark personal interest. Moreover, the intricacies of sustainability might seem daunting to many. By following a careful pattern, this video crafts a compelling narrative that bridges the gap between these complex concepts and the viewer's values.

First, by making a personal connection. The video shifts the focus from the abstract idea of cloud storage to a more relatable aspect: the internet-connected devices we use daily and their direct impact on our planet.

The narrative then effectively weaves together the benefits of technology with the universal desire to protect and preserve our environment. By doing so, it fosters a sense of shared vision, making the future benefits of sustainable technology both tangible and desirable.

As the video concludes, Microsoft paints an inspiring vision of the future it aims to facilitate. There’s no need to point to specific solutions. The alignment with viewers' values and curiosity is so adept that it leaves them eager for more information, effectively bridging the initial "why" to the subsequent exploration of "what" and "how." And, the impact on internal stakeholders was profound – turning previous skeptics into the program’s biggest champions.


Make the future a tangible reality.

It's no secret that disrupting an industry, a market, or a traditional way of doing things is hard. But it's even harder when you're trying to champion a future only you can see. That's why the most successful launches aren't because of a single innovator's vision, but because of the vision they've helped create for others. 

Topics: B2Me, Strategy, Best Practices