Think of this as a classroom case study of a unique product with a green story, and tremendous potential, that is all dressed up and has nowhere to go.
Chris Marszalek, a business associate and good friend of mine, invented a product called Drink Links. It is an ingeniously simply idea where a plastic ring easily snaps onto the neck of a plastic bottle indentifying your bottle from others, much like a wine charm fits over the stem of your wine glass at a party.
How Is This An Eco Friendly Product?
I saw Drink Links and immediately recognized its green potential because it is primarily designed to eliminate waste. After a party or gathering, we have all had to dump partially consumed bottles of water, beer, or soft drinks because the original owner of the beverage simply lost track of his or her bottle. That is a tremendous waste of product, as well as of packaging. Remember, fewer plastic bottles mean less plastic used or discarded. Drink Links eliminates the need to try to mark your beverage (throw away your magic marker) and easily identifies it as yours. Use recycled plastic to make the rings, add some eco friendly packaging and you have a very solid and sellable green story, or so I thought.
A Health Benefit as Well
As the TV ad man says, “But that’s not all”. The only thing more topical these days that sustainability is health and Drink Links offers the additional advantage of preventing germs from being passed around by people unintentionally sharing a beverage. If you imagine a children’s party or sports team, you know your child will not hesitate to drink for the same bottle as his or her friend. You know; the kid with a runny nose who always seems to be out of school due to illness. The one who’s nick name is “The Carrier” and it’s not because he is built like a ship.
So what’s the problem?
I offered to assist Chris in the marketing and packaging of the product and among others we have showed it to a very large drug store chain, a huge health care provider, a very popular bottled water supplier and everyone we show it to, loves it. I have even had personal requests for more samples because the product is a hit at home. The problem is that no one is buying it or selling it.
We thought perhaps the relatively low retail price point (around $1.00) was a problem so we changed strategies and thought it might make a great give away or private branded promo item. I envisioned an eco minded water bottler perhaps including a free pack of Drink Links included in every case of bottled water? Companies give away millions of pens and note paper pads at conferences, shows, etc. so perhaps we could turn the low cost and price into a negative by making it a personalized ad specialty item? Perfect for any person or company in the healthcare or nutrition business, right? We even showed it to smaller retail chains including a local network of liquor stores. Once again, everyone thinks it is a great idea but no one seems to know how to best market it.
The Homework Portion of this Case Study
You’re assignment, if you choose to accept it is to help us determine why this product is not selling? Here are a couple of thoughts we’ve had:
• Is it the price point? Too low to get much attention? Too high for an ad trinket?
• Is it the packaging? Honestly, you will not hurt my feelings because I entered the picture after the basic design was complete.
• Is it the name? Is “Drink Links” not descriptive enough or is it too internet unfriendly? Google it and you’ll see what I mean. Every bartender’s creation comes up.
• Is private branding the way to go with this?
• Have we not identified the best market, yet?
• Are we over rating its green value?
The primary lesson here is that today, inventing and designing a good, unique and green product is not nearly enough in this fast growing and crowded space. So many things have to come together perfectly to make a product a hit and perhaps you need a little bit of luck as well.