Pitching the unsellable

Inventing is the easy part. Marketing? Not so much. We asked experts how they'd advertise 5 hard-to-tout products.

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Building a better bulb
Building a better bulb
Tom Irvine with one of his ClearLite bulbs

The product: ClearLite light bulbs
Sounds simple enough, at first: It's an energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.

But then it gets more complicated: CFLs typically contain liquid mercury inside the bulb. Break it, and you've got a poisonous vapor emitting into the room.

Which may not be a big deal, concedes Tom Irvine. Scientists haven't yet determined if the small amount of liquid mercury in CFLs is dangerous. But Irvine sleeps well at night knowing that he has made what he believes is the safest CFL on the market.

ClearLite bulbs are made of a mercury amalgam with a silicon skin wrapped around the bulb. If the bulb breaks, the mercury is contained. But as Irvine, based out of Parkland City, Fla., wonders: "How do you explain that to a buyer or consumer, before you're physically in front of them? Especially when there's nothing else like this on the market?"

What the experts say: Liz Goodgold, who runs the branding consulting firm The Nuancing Group in San Diego, thinks that ClearLite is smart to play up the "our light bulbs are safer" angle.

"People do understand the fear factor of mercury, and a good selling point, unfortunately, is fear," says Goodgold. "Fear has always been historically motivating in sales."

But the name, she says, has to go. She doesn't think "ClearLite" says enough about the product. If it were up to her, she would name the bulbs something that played up the idea that the lights are long-lasting and environmentally safe.


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LAST UPDATE: Oct 22 2009 | 5:26 PM ET
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