The selling power of trusted, familiar ideas

New ideas are hard to absorb. Especially today, when we feel besieged by a barrage of new. Our reaction, increasingly, is to duck and cover, hoping the storm will pass.

I love marketing new ideas. But I’m also very aware of the fine line between ‘new and exciting’ and ‘new and terrifying’.

If you want to defuse the terror, I’d recommend you infuse the trusted and true into your communication of ‘new’.

Before I go into the how-to, take a moment to check out this video describing a brilliant example of ‘trusted meets new’ messaging.

marc stoiber brand strategy

Start with the consumer

If you have a new idea, you understandably want to tell the world. Unfortunately, rattling off all your amazing features is a bit of a bore – at best.

So turn the telescope. Look at your new idea as a consumer would.

Apple did a brilliant job of this with the iPod – telling people they could access their entire music collection in their pocket, with the touch of one finger. No mention of hard drives, interfaces or even musical quality.

VW, back in the 1950’s, did a similarly great job introducing the Bug to America. In fact, ‘Beetle’ was a name given to the VW by a consumer. And while features like air cooling, rear engine and great fuel economy were strong sellers, it was the humanizing of the car – giving it a cute nickname – that enabled more people to drop their guard and embrace it.

The point is, what you think is the most compelling point of your pitch often isn’t. Consumers will happily tell you what they love. Listen hard, and try to incorporate their thinking. I’m certain VW was less than thrilled to hear their car conjured up images of a friendly insect. To their credit, the automaker listened and adapted.


In the video above, I describe the trusted idea ‘The Good Life’ that Sustainable Brands used to lower consumer trepidation around ‘green’ business.

If you think about it, though, The Good Life is anything but an obvious solution.

It was far more likely the Sustainable Brands team would’ve settled for a ‘lower order’ benefit of sustainability to promote. Efficiency, for example, or health.

Instead, they laddered up their thinking (whether consciously or not). Efficiency gives people what? A healthier planet gives people what?

Keep laddering up to higher and higher order benefits, and you arrive at The Good Life. Everything in the world of sustainability inevitably is created to help us humans have a good life, while helping future generations have a good life, too.


Laddering to a higher order benefit is wonderful. But it’s the creative twist that makes The Good Life remarkable.

These three simple words are anchored in a sentiment that captured the post WWII euphoria. Everyone had a job! Everyone had a home! Everyone had a big car! And most important, nobody would ever have to go back to war again.

Simple, yes. Naive, perhaps. But those three simple words captured the zeitgeist brilliantly.

Fast forward to today. In our cynical, increasingly depressed world, those three simple words take us back to a time where optimism reigned, and everything was possible. A wonderful sentiment to anchor the sustainability movement to.


Retro sells for a reason. Creating a hybrid of new and old feeds our nostalgia for happier times, while at the same time reassuring us that what we’re buying was created with modern technology.

Take the Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. To quote their website:

Thoroughbred custom classics, the Bonneville Bobber and Bobber Black cleverly combine elegant engineering and category-leading technology and capability with an unparalleled heritage and exciting hot rod ride and sound. 

Is the Bonneville an authentic heritage bike? No. Would it perform better if it went whole hog modern? Probably.

But that isn’t the point. What we need to think about is that the new is often off-putting, if not terrifying. But if we wrap it in the old, we can often create a hybrid that taps into the consumer consciousness extremely effectively.

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Thinking your brand doesn’t incorporate enough trusted, simple ideas? A good first step would be to download my BrandDIY book for tips and advice. 

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