Your product isn't flawed, but its marketing may be.
Marketing Content Strategy

FiveFingers Failure: Three Content Marketing Challenges for Misused Products

Consumer goods have their share of content marketing challenges, but explaining the purpose of a product is not often one of them. There are, however, notable exceptions.

Millions of runners have purchased the popular Vibram FiveFingers footwear, buying into the idea that more support isn’t always better. Developed in 2005, the shoe effectively reinvented athletic trainers when it replaced a raised sole with five individual pockets for each of your toes. People were suddenly encouraged to “run barefoot,” strengthening the muscles that traditional sneakers don’t engage. Vibram is now in the middle of settling a class-action lawsuit backed by customers who allege the company made false promises about the shoe’s advantages.

Still, plenty reap the benefits of a “minimalistic” routine, myself included. So, then, why do some consumers cry foul over good products, and how can brand journalism ensure that your customers don’t?

1. Predict Product Misuse

In the event of a complaint, the damage to a brand doesn’t end at the settlement. Developers watch the Internet scuff their brand reputation and leave them on the defensive. Unless the product was truly flawed, the real issue is a failure in marketing. Ideas such as minimalist running can offer something their traditional counterparts can’t, but companies also need to consider all the possibilities for potential damage–such as, for example, overuse of a product that leads to injury.

Are there similar studies behind your stuff? Write about them. Stay ahead of the Web by refining the material that may tempt customers to overuse your product, so you don’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

2. Confront the Trends

Companies tend to stay far, far away from even mentioning alternative uses for their products, because they don’t want to appear to encourage something that ends up harming users. It behooves you, however, to get involved in that discussion. Ink the pen, and confront the trends. Are they safe? Find out.

For example, Preparation H is used to treat hemorrhoids, but users often go “off-label” and spread it on their arms and torsos to make those muscles appear more toned. Warnings about proper usage don’t deter every buyer from abusing your merchandise, but content marketing challenges you to be the thought leader who tackles these trends head-on, discusses them carefully, and prevents potential issues before they gain momentum.

3. Collaborate with Innovators

When one brand strikes at a competitor, the competitor hits back—usually harder. Competing firms always launch an answer when they feel threatened. That’s especially true now, when customers have so many outlets for shouting about their brand experiences and loyalties.

And then War asked, “Why can’t we be friends?”

If you’re putting out a product that shakes up the norm, check yourself. Consumer goods that challenge conventional wisdom sometimes form a marketing plan that aims for eye-catching novelty, but can also risk long-term success. Usually, there is an Option B right next to it: partnering up.

Explore how you can cross-promote your services with a name everyone knows and get credit for authority in content that reports how your invention worked well for someone who uses it.

In an era when products are complicated and potential backlashes can be intense, you have to be smart about how you get buyers to your door. It takes much more than a banner ad to effectively educate your customers, and taking these extra steps keeps you from getting off on the wrong foot.

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