Entrepreneur magazine, February 2000

Inventors' products need visual impact to succeed on retailers' shelves. Brad Young of Outdoor Dynamics Inc. spent a lot of time working on colors and fabrics for his HeadBANdZ to give them what he calls a "not nerdy" look. No matter how practical your customers might be, there's no doubt visual appeal is a major selling point to retailers, who want a dynamic-looking product, and to customers, who want to look cool.

One of the hottest product categories on the market today is portable MP3 players that download and play music from the Internet. Noting their explosive growth, major companies, including RCA, Samsung and Creative Labs, jumped into the market. Sensory Science, a smaller manufacturer, recently introduced its own version. One step the company took to compete against larger corporations was to create an innovative look. Rather than the rectangular or square box most of its competitors employed, the raveMP 2100 from Sensory Science comes in a unique hourglass shape. Its visual styling gave retailers, customers and even industry experts an extra incentive to pick up the product--and it's helped the company keep up in a fiercely competitive category.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant who has introduced new products for more than 20 years. He is the author of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley & Sons). Questions may be sent to him at dondebelak@uswest.net