Fredrick The Great, King of Prussia, had a problem.
It was 1774 and Prussia was in the middle of a little ice age which meant colder weather and potential for a devastating famine.
Looking to provide his people with a more stable diet, he focused on the potato.
But people didn’t like potatoes. In fact, they had an active dislike for potatoes.
During that time, potatoes were often flavorless, odorless, and the unattractive color they remain to this day. Potatoes were food for animals, who didn’t enjoy them much either.
So when Fredrick The Great mandated that everyone grow, harvest, and eat potatoes, the result was to be expected–the people ignored the mandate.
But Fredrick The Great didn’t give up. Instead he banned the potato from being grown and used–except by royalty.
He set up a royal garden protected by guards that were given very specific instruction–stand guard, but don’t “guard” too closely or chase thieves. Somehow, shortly after banning the potato except for royalty, it began to show up in gardens all across Germany.
Fredrick The Great gave value to the ordinary.
So many failures in business aren’t because of good or useful products. It’s a problem of perception.
The easiest way to change perception is to enable story telling.
Fredrick The Great enabled the common folk to tell the story of eating a vegetable only reserved for royalty.
Why do people spend $4 on bottled water when it can be found for so much cheaper?
They’re not just buying the water. They buy the story of the water being captured from a spring river in Fuji and transported directly to them.
What you need isn’t to tell people how great your product is or why they need it. People don’t care.
What you need is to enable people to tell themselves a story.
Connect with me on Twitter: @BenNesvig
See the potato story told during a TED Talk