May 23, 2012

LiquiGlide For Condiments: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Dennis O'Donnell

LiquiGlide is a friction-reducing “structured liquid” developed by the Varanasi Research Group at MIT – and a truly cool new innovation.  I had to write about it, though, because it falls into a very unique category of new products that rarely occurs:  those that are brilliant in their engineering and technical use, solve a problem that everyone has almost perfectly, but absolutely miss the mark in their marketing and execution, and therefore risk their ability to succeed.  Why?  Well, as per the title of this post, here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of LiquiGlide for condiments – not LiquiGlide as a whole, or LiquiGlide the invention – I think the invention itself is amazing:

The Good:

  • LiquiGlide solves a definite problem – coaxing condiments out of their bottles is frustrating, and they just fixed it forever.  Awesome.
  • Non-toxic – that’s always good.  No one wants toxic ketchup, right?
  • The market is huge – they even quote themselves it’s a $17 billion industry.  That’s a good market to go after.
The Bad
  • Would you ever, ever eat something called “LiquiGlide”?  This is a professional blog, so I’m only barely going to allude to what category of product LiquiGlide actually sounds like, and no, I don’t want it in my ketchup.  Does it matter that LiquiGlide is actually an MIT-developed “structured liquid”?  NO!  No one is ever going to pour trace amounts of LiquiGlide on their fries.
  • Marketing the product for food service, and educating the customer, without changing the brand.  That video is awesome – Gizmodo picked up the story – and now everyone knows it as LiquiGlide.

The Ugly

  • Cool as it is, watching mayo and ketchup slither out of the bottle aided by LiquiGlide is like watching a wet slug get pulled out of a shell on Man vs. Wild.  That imagery is best left in the lab, board room, and purchasing offices of the condiment companies.  Whatever bottle this stuff ends up in better have an opaque wrapper on it, because absolutely no one wants to see that.

I really hope this team is able to bring this product to market – but I personally believe they made some marketing foibles on the way.  That imagery, however shockingly cool it is, plus the “LiquiGlide” name, should have never reached the end consumer.  Ever see a diaper commercial?  There’s a reason they pour a pleasant blue liquid into them to show how absorbent the diaper is – you don’t always need to see exactly how the product works in order to be convinced you want it.  Best of luck to the Varanasi Research Group – you guys are awesome engineers, and I admire your work – I wish you the best of luck in marketing a truly great innovation.

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