Demand Discovery by Cheap Talk

We have seen Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms emerge as a means of demand discovery. In those platforms, consumers commit to purchasing a new product and so incur some real costs.

However, Mark Rober has embarked on a different route for his better microwave idea. First, take a look at that idea.

It is a pretty good idea. I’m not sure it needs a screen on the microwave per se when it could work with an app but the principle seems sound. Certainly worth exploring.

Rober doesn’t really want to explore it. He wants some microwave manufacturer to license his patent on the idea. So instead of going to them, he has asked consumers to sign a petition to express their interest. In other words, he is going for crowd cheap talk.

And the talk is cheap. There is no commitment. At best, he gathers a mailing list. But still, it is an interesting way of getting demand discovery. I guess what our microwaves look like in five years time will tell us something about how this played out.

4 Replies to “Demand Discovery by Cheap Talk”

  1. Apart from the ‘new’ idea on measuring pent up demand, It’s unclear what this microwave screen is offering. Anyone with a minimum of experience with microwave ovens knows the heating is anything but uniform and all sorts of rotating platforms have been created to deal with this problem. How does seeing the non-uniformity on the front door help? Once you know this, what are you supposed to do about it? This may explain why this guy has had to try this approach because microwave manufacturers are uninterested.

    This may not be a useful test of the technique, but someone else might find a better use for it.

    1. OK, somehow I saw only the petition but not the video. Now I’ve seen the video. something is bogus there. Food items that are not rotated to overcome the non-uniformity of the microwave energy, DO NOT become uniformly heated just by leaving them in longer. They will have SERIOUS hot spots. (Note that his comment about patenting the concept is also incorrect. A concept cannot be patented; you have to have a working device.)

      And then there is the Amazon audio books trailer – equally enthusiastic but not consistent with my experience. This guy looks like a huckster to me.

  2. In ten years time (what’s the average life of a microwave?) a screen on the device will look like a much better bet than an app that only runs on a phone you threw away eight years ago.

  3. Thanks for the insightful article, which we picked up in our blog (with due credits!)

    “So, you have an idea, and maybe some sort of prototype. Now the question is: how do you reach all potential buyers? Typically, you would look for investors, post your project on kickstarter, or bootstrap a company with your own funds. As it turns out, there is a third option: start a petition.”

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