8 Examples Of Creating Unexpected Utility In Marketing

Visakan Veerasamy
Visakan Veerasamy
September 25, 2015
2 min read
8 Examples Of Creating Unexpected Utility In Marketing

In this article

To earn word-of-mouth, you need to make a Wow product.

Literally a product that makes people go "Wow." Something truly remarkable. Something really worth talking about.

When we deconstruct everything that's Wow'd people, we notice two things:

  1. Unexpected Utility (led by Innovation), and
  2. a Meaningful Story (led by Marketing).

Today we'll talk about Unexpected Utility.

Unexpected Utility is when you create something that...

  1. Allows people to do something that they want to do,
  2. Allow them to do it faster, better and/or more easily than they had expected,
  3. At a price that is lower than what people would expect (2) to cost.

As we examine the examples of products that have created Unexpected Utility for their users, we find that they invariably either...

  • Create an entirely new product class, or
  • Top the list of an existing product class

Let's go through some examples.

New Product Class

"What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super-easy to use. This is what (the) iPhone is. " - Steve Jobs in 2007, launching the iPhone

1: The Apple iPhone redefined what a smartphone was supposed to be, do or look like.


Like the iPod before it, the iPhone broke into a new class of products, allowing people to do more with their mobile device than they were ever able to before.

This made it immensely newsworthy, despite its initial flaws.

As of March 2015, over 700,000,000 iPhones have been sold.

Read next: 8 Examples Of How Apple Generates Word-Of-Mouth All Over The World

2: Dropbox introduced mainstream cloud storage to the casual user.

[caption id="attachment_7967" align="aligncenter" width="580"]

The canonical example of a dual-sided-incentive referral program.

The canonical example of a dual-sided-incentive referral program.[/caption]

Prior to Dropbox, online storage was clunky, unwieldy and unreliable. Dropbox allowed people to simply, easily access their files from everywhere– it was a game-changer worth talking about.

Today, Dropbox is valued at $10 billion dollars.

Learn more about Dropbox's incredible referral program: How Referrals Built The Dropbox Empire

3: Tesla's Model S was the first electric car that was considered beautiful, practical and effective.


Tesla's Model S wasn't the first electric car in a world driven by gasoline, but it was the first to become a status symbol– sexy, reliable, and safe. It's been acknowledged by multiple motoring authorities to be an all-around superior vehicle.

Learn more about Tesla's Referral Program: Referral Program Examples: Tesla Motors Gives $1,000 To Advocates AND Referred Friends

4: Lily produced the first grandma-friendly camera drone.

Lily Camera Drone

Drones with cameras have been around for some time, but Lily is noteworthy for being incredibly user-friendly.

You wear a tracker, throw the drone in the air, and it'll follow and film you as you perform all sorts of cool snowboarding tricks.

Extreme / Best-in-its-class

"The public tends to be, as they should, interested in things that are precedent and superlatives." – Elon Musk

5: The Coolest Cooler has more features than you'll ever need.


Why would anybody want to talk about a cooler? It's a box that you put your drinks in.

Well, the Coolest Cooler does much more than that– it's got Bluetooth speakers, a blender, a USB charger, an LED lid light... and that's not even half of it. They raised $13 million dollars on Kickstarter–260 times their $50,000 target!

Learn more: Deciphering The Coolest Cooler: How A Tricked Out Cooler Box Climbed To The Top Of Kickstarter

6: Under Armour got its foothold by making the best moisture-wicking sweatshirts in the world.

Under Armour compression

UA's founder Kevin Plank was dissatisfied with the quality of moisture-wicking sweatshirts on the market. So he made his own, using $17,000 of his own money. Today, UA has overtaken Adidas to be the 2nd highest-grossing sports brand in the world.

Learn more about Under Armour: 4 Ways How Under Armour Grew via Word-of-Mouth to Eventually Overtake Adidas

7: Chubbies positioned itself as the most passionate shorts merchant online.


Chubbies' manifesto states this: “We don’t do pants, cargos, capris… we do shorts and only shorts.”

Learn more about Chubbies and other successful Shopify stores: 12 Modern Marketing Tactics Used By Shopify Stores, According to Shopify’s CPO @HarleyF

8: Google was late to the search engine game... but it was the best.

yahoo google comparison ReferralCandy

Google wasn't the first search engine in the world. There were many.

But Google was the easiest to use, and consistently gave the best results, so people would tell their friends to use it.

Today, they're part of a multi-billion dollar search advertising industry that can afford to do all kinds of thrilling experiments.

Learn more about Google's early marketing: 6 Ways Google Generated Word-of-Mouth For Their Products


Read Next: How To Get Word-of-Mouth: 40+ Successful Examples To Learn From

Visakan Veerasamy
Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's former Blog Editor [2013–2018]. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's mildly Internet-famous for his elaborate Twitter threads. He hopes to enjoy a glass of scotch onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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