How to Make Benign Neglect Work for You Find a way to put a new spin on a familiar product.

By Susan Solovic

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

JHK2303 | Getty Images

The other day, one of the morning shows did a segment on men's socks, an area of commerce which has seen little change over the years. Until recently, men's socks came in three styles -- boring dull, and bland. The last major innovation to push the "sock envelope" was the argyle sock, and the invention of that pattern and its application to socks dates back to the 1600s.

So yeah, it's been a while. The sock industry is ready to for something new.

One of the new companies ready to set the sock world on fire is Stance. The company's cofounder and CEO is Jeff Kearl. It was by studying a wide variety of products on sale at Target that Kearl got the inspiration to start Stance, which offers colorful designer and performance socks.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Keep It Real.

When his attention focused on the men's socks at Target, Kearl found an important consumer item that had been suffering under benign neglect for, well, centuries. I need to note that Stance isn't alone in its effort to pump new life into men's socks. Search for men's socks on Amazon, and you'll be treated to a rainbow of attractive footwear.

I tell you this story because there are probably thousands of important consumer items that are suffering under the same benign neglect. And, when someone comes along and finds a way to stir the pot, that person can end up creating a new category.

Here's a question: How many of us have walked by the men's sock collection at Target and not seen it as an opportunity for innovation? I suggest that virtually all of us would be guilty for not seeing the possibilities or recognizing the fact that little has changed in men's socks for years and years.

I often tell the story of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and the basic idea is the same. Ben and Jerry's created a new category -- "designer" ice cream, if you will -- when they broke away from the standard chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. And in many ways, Apple did the same thing with the original iMac. If you remember, instead of a boring beige box, the first generation of iMacs came in "flavors" like blueberry and strawberry.

Related: 5 Things Every First Time Founder Needs to Know

The good thing about creating a new category is you don't have to invent an item from scratch. You just need to find a way to put a new spin on an old product. Discover a way to make it appeal to a young, lucrative market.

Look for products that are used by both men and women. Determine which is ahead in terms of innovation or aesthetics, then take the one that's lagging, and bring it up to speed.

And if you can't think of anything right off the bat, why not do what Kearl did and head over to your nearest Target? Find some items that have fallen by the wayside in terms of modernization. List them all, and start doing some market research to judge the potential size of a category. Then, make a plan, and go for it.

Susan Solovic

THE Small Business Expert, Award-winning entrepreneur, New York Times bestseller, keynote speaker, media personality and attorney.

Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert.  An award-winning entrepreneur and Internet pioneer, she founded one of the first video-based websites and grew it to a multi-million dollar enterprise.  The company was recognized as the Best Investment Opportunity in the Silicon Valley in 2006 by a venture forum group.  She is a sought-after keynote speaker, New York Times bestseller, media personality and popular blogger.  Her experience provides her with a unique vantage point from which to inform and inspire entrepreneurs around the globe.


Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

Apple Moves to Sever Ties With Goldman Sachs — Here's What That Means for Apple Card and Savings Holders

The end may be near for one of the most prominent alliances between a technology firm and a banking institution.

Business Solutions

Perfect Your Photo Editing Skills with This AI Photo Editor — Just $150 for Cyber Week

Luminar Neo offers entrepreneurs an AI-powered photo editing software that can save time and money.


How Cutting Edge AI Tech Could Be Your Answer to Tackling Stress

In today's stress-ridden world marked by conflicts and a multitude of life challenges most of us never saw coming, the urgent need for innovative solutions to address the pressing mental health crisis is evident. Here's how entrepreneurs and startups can use generative AI to provide essential support to employees, coworkers and society as a whole.


These Are the Elite PR Secrets You Must Know to Get Noticed — and Escape Backlash, According to an Expert Who Helps Celebrities Do Just That

AI might be taking the industry by storm, but it can't replace the human element, says Liza Anderson, founder of Anderson Group Public Relations.


5 Link-Building Tips to Help You Rank on Page 1

Link building is one of the most challenging parts of any SEO strategy. Make it easier with five tried-and-tested strategies for building quality backlinks in 2023.