Turbo Encabulator
How to communicate your idea to the media

I’d like to introduce you to the Turbo Encabulator. It’s an innovative invention that “would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grameters.”

The product is, of course, a joke, designed to poke fun at the way scientists try to use the media to communicate their products. The footage below is from 1977, but the joke goes back even further. In 1946, the “turboencabulator” became an in-joke amongst engineers on their lack of marketing savvy.

So how can I avoid the “turboencabulator” method?

To begin with, take a careful look at your target market and determine which media are most important to your customers.  Do your customers spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at gadgets? Or do they browse a specific set of stores to find the latest fashions? Do they watch TV or play with their iPhones?

Such decisions will determine where you plant your message.

Time & money

Since you’re running a start-up, your time and money is limited. You can’t afford to blanket the media with billboards, TV ads and flyers. As such, you’ve got to identify the key opinion leaders in your field and target your marketing to them.

Who are the people in your industry that your customers listen to?

Language and your “IP story”

Is your elevator pitch full of technical jargon or clear, meaningful words? A good way of achieving clarity is by using a metaphor to explain your product. One of the reasons the Microsoft Office suite is so popular is because people immediately understand it based on the over-riding metaphor of the “Office.” You turn on your computer to your “desktop,” arrange your files into “folders,” and when you delete something it goes into the “recycling bin” (which used to be called the “garbage” or “trash” in less environmentally conscious times).

One of the most important MarCom skills to learn is the art of the sound-bite. Get a video camera and film yourself explaining your technology.  Go through the following tips for perfecting the sound-bite for different media:

Tips for soundbites

Medium
Content

  • Look the interview in the eye (not the camera)
  • Pause for edit points
  • Strong voice
  • Clear, enunciated phrases
  • Less than 20 seconds
  • Mention your company
  • Avoid technical words
  • Use metaphors
  • Avoid cliches
  • Call to action
  • Emotional connection
  • Use numbers and stats

Bite by bite, you’ll eventually gather together a compelling MarCom toolkit that tells the right story to the right people, giving your product the air-time it deserves.

Join us

MaRS has designed a workshop series to help technology clients clearly define their marketing and communications (MarCom) strategy. The Entrepreneurship 201 Workshop Series: The MarCom Toolkit is an interactive, hands-on session of between 15 and 24 technology entrepreneurs devoted to steering them away from the “turboencabulator” method. We go through all of the stuff above, right down to handing out Flip cameras and getting you to film each other.

To enroll for Entrepreneurship 201: The MarCom Toolkit, talk to your MaRS advisor or email entrepreneurship201@marsdd.com.  Workshops are free for clients of MaRS and other innovation centres in the Ontario Network of Excellence.

Joseph Wilson

Joseph was an education advisor at MaRS Discovery District. He writes on topics of science, culture and city issues for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events. See more…