Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Quietest Women Love The Loudest Whistle

My recently deceased position as president of a start-up kids safety company allowed me to dabble once again in product development. Our core product- the safety video mentioned in a previous post- was selling very well, but we needed to expand our brand offering quickly to respond to consumer demand. A follow-up video was $500k and a year away.

The team started throwing out ideas that fit the criteria I laid out- safety related while also fun for kids. A whistle was high on the list, and my first pick for development. We researched manufacturers and found one that intrigued us. All Weather Safety Whistle Company out of St. Louis MO touted themselves as the manufacturer of the loudest whistle in the world. We ordered a few samples and tested them out.

They have plenty of data on their website to prove their superiority- several scientific tests that measured them against competitors, and of course a list of clients that use their whistles that include US Special Forces, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, NYPD and NFL referees. But what do they know?

My four girls tested the whistles all over our 11 acre spread. Could they hear it from 500 feet away? Check. 1000 feet away? Check. Underwater in the pool? Check. Yes- the whistles work underwater. Amazing.

We decided to use this manufacturer, put our logo on it, place it in a nifty package, and sell away. It has been one of the strongest sellers on our website. We have heard from customers about how they have used the whistles to protect themselves or loved ones. An unintended benefit has come from offering the whistles- it has attracted new customers outside of our core target of moms with young kids. The whistles are selling well to older parents buying them for personal safety, or for their college age daughters. Very interesting.

Well, on to the purpose of this post. Last year during a couple of conventions we attended (The National PTA Convention and the Mothers of Pre-Schoolers Convention) we spread our wares out on our booth table. Our booth staff diligently fished for customers, answered questions, processed purchases and collected names and e-mail addresses. I noticed the whistle was not selling well at the first convention and thought we needed something that would make it stand out.

My idea? Place a whistle on the front table with a sign that read: “This is the loudest whistle in the world. We dare you to blow it.”

That was all it took. Every few minutes we had a woman take the challenge. Sometimes with friends that goaded her to try, sometimes on her own and curious. The blast would SHUT DOWN the entire convention floor for 2 seconds or so, and everyone in the aisle would turn and stare in surprise thinking “so that’s where the whistle sound has been coming from all day.”

We sold a large number of whistles at both events, got every other vendor that knew who we were to hate our guts, and on one occasion had a security guard come tell us to stop (we didn’t listen to him. Hey- we paid our money for the booth, and this was product sampling. Sorry).

I was fascinated by the type of women that would end up blowing the whistle. All types considered it. The loud boisterous types, the funny life-of-the-party types, the artists, the business women, all types. The ones that you could count on to take up the challenge? The quiet, reserved, and generally unassuming women.

This was their chance to prove they could rock the boat, party out and raise a ruckus with the best of them. They tended to also ask if they would get a prize or a discount if they blew it. The answer was no, but that didn't stop them.

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