Marketing The Unmarketable

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When really thinking about the many new tools and platforms that are available for Marketers to connect to consumers, we may have to embrace the idea that – in the end – we’re trying to "market the unmarketable."

Nearly nine years ago I joined a company called Airborne Entertainment (the company is now called Airborne Mobile). My stint there only lasted a year, but one of my bosses at the time was Andy Nulman (the guy behind the infamous Just For Laughs comedy festival, Blogger & author of Pow! Right Between The Eyes and a close friend). The idea behind Airborne Mobile was to bring big brands to the small screen. It was everything from jokes to very simple games. This company had a vision that brands would need a solid strategy around being on (and in) mobile devices. It’s amazing to think that back then the carriers didn’t much care for data usage. Voice usage and consumer churn to other carriers was what was keeping them up at night.

Any ideas we had for marketing brands on mobile devices were practically ignored.

So, if the carriers weren’t all that interested and brands were humouring us to see what the market was like, how did the company grow the way it did (the company went on to do quite well)? New technology and platforms were (and still continue to be) a long and hard struggle, but on my last day at Airborne Mobile, Nulman said something that stuck with me to this day:

"We are trying to market the unmarketable."

There are two challenges that new technology, platforms and content bring:

1. The industry it serves is not prepared or doesn’t believe in it.

2. Consumers have no idea what it is for and claim they would never use it.

We’ve seen it countless times before, we’re seeing it now and we’re going to see it again.

People questioned why they would need a telephone, they questioned why they would need a computer, they questioned why they would need more than 500 songs on a music player, they said they would never watch video on a two-inch screen, and they questioned everything else that is now commonplace in our lives (I’m fairly certain there were those who questioned the need for indoor plumbing back in the day).

It’s important to always remember that the minute something new comes out (and even when it’s not so new), we’re always going to be faced with "marketing the unmarketable."


  1. Mitch – that’s a great example of a very common problem that few recognize. Those people/companies that can see ‘potential’ are often in the position of explaining their vision to people who don’t see beyond the current reality.
    As you say, marketing that which is new requires patience as you wait for the masses or at least the edge of the masses to catch up.

  2. If Henry Ford listened to people, they would have said, “We need faster horses!” I can’t remember who said it to give credit to, but so true.

  3. If it adds value its marketable. You have to find the value add or understand what the value is and find a new way to obtain it. Information at your fingertips is highly valuable… moving people, and freight more efficiently is also highly valuable.

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