Friday, August 20, 2010

"Night at the Museum" at a Toy Factory - Quickly Framing Your Product

I just published an article for the day-job blog about Paramount losing an email message that discusses films they have in development.

I love the way movies initially get pitched, and I think there is a lot for product people (whether product managers or entrepreneurs) to learn from it. Today's topic is the high concept, which originated with a need to pack as much punch as possible into two lines of text in TV Guide back when it was a dead tree and space mattered. [1]

Robert Kosberg wrote,
The essence of high concept is that it is both brief and provocative. It piques the imagination and promises that big things are going to happen out of an ordinary situation.
And we even see a few high concepts in Paramount's email:
  • "Night at the Museum" at a Toy Factory
  • Fugitive meets Taken
  • Oceans 11 Years Old [2]
If you are familiar with movies, you now have a good idea what these movies are about.

If you are trying to bring a new product into the market, comparing yourself to a known entity will give the listener a lot of context that you can begin altering to describe your product. You leverage the marketing the 800 pound gorilla has done to your advantage.

See how much information one sentence can give you?
  • It's like Siebel hosted for you in the cloud.
  • It's like Powerpoint with one big slide.
But we can do better. Neither of these are very provocative. The cloud doesn't really say anything. One slide doesn't even sound appealing. In either case, we aren't really piqued.

Let's try again:
  • It's like Siebel, but we have to deal with the bearded guys in the data center.
  • It's like Powerpoint from a helicopter instead of a 70's slide projector.
Well, I think they are more compelling, anyway.

I'd love to hear your product's high concept. Put it in the comments or tweet them using #prodmgmt #concept tags.

[1] There are a lot of conflicting opinions on what High Concept really means. I'm going with the definition from the provided link based off its etymology.

[2] Oceans 11 Years Old - a heist movie featuring middle school kids.