How do small entrepreneurial brands successfully innovate in a market, when blue chip’s with multi-million dollar budgets fail? At Brand Genetics we believe one answer is they create products and product experiences that are observably different and act as advertisements themselves.

‘Observability’ is one of the key factors Rogers identifies in the diffusion of innovation. It is defined as the extent an innovation is visible to others: ‘An innovation that is more visible will drive communication among the individual’s peers and personal networks and will in turn create more positive or negative reactions.’

Too often big companies leave ‘observability’ to advertising, but brands like Graze (see main photo), which lack a big ad budget, have designed a highly visible product experience; once someone in an office has a Graze box arrive in the post, it is sure to be noticed by others.

Look at other the breakthrough innovations of recent years – mostly from entrepreneurial companies – and you can see the power of observability at work:


Gu Puds were instantly recognisable thanks to their glass ramekins

iPod Headphones

Even if you had an iPod in your pocket – the iconic white ear buds told everyone you had an Apple

Jager Bombs

Who could resist asking ‘What’s that?’ when seeing Jager Bombs lined up on the bar?

Method Xmas

Method brought cleaning products out from under the counter and make them beautiful

Heidi Klum And Family Stop By Starbucks

Everytime a celebrity is snapped with a Starbucks in their hand, it’s free advertising


Jeremiah Weed is served in Jam Jars, so it stands out from the crowd

Indeed Jeremiah Weed makes an interesting case study. Whilst it is a new launch from Diageo, they have chosen to act as a smaller start up might: calling themselves the Jeremiah Weed Brewing Company, using a strategy of seeding the drink with influential communities (think Camden & Brooklyn) and creating an observable product experience.

So next time you innovate challenge yourself to create a product or product experience that will catch the eye of non-users, spark interest and drive conversation – it might be your key to success.



  1. Paul Marsden Reply

    Great post Tom, from Rogers to Seth Godin – ‘distinctive design’ is absolutely key to successful innovation.

    And from an evolutionary perspective, the reason is clear – distinctive design is about ‘signalling’ – either standing out from or fitting in with others.

    Psychology aside, the point is that successful front-end innovation will be design-driven concept development.

  2. Alan Saxon Reply

    Or using is believing?. It also seems that uptake is about customers who are happy to engage, use and be seen in association with the brand. All of the products shown here illustrate this. There is also an element of ‘coolness’ to this too!.

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.