It seems silly to pay for a nail polish when you can buy a neutral one for 30% less at your local drug store, right?
The answer is yes. Everybody knows it.
But the truth is that neutral nails are still a niche product niche and there’s no good reason why they shouldn’t be. They offer not just convenience but also quality, and at a price that makes sense to customers who are willing to spend a little more on their beauty. Both customers and brands probably have answers to these questions:
1) Why would anybody pay for a nail polish if they can get one for 30% less than I can?
2) What would make these nails worth my time?
3) How does this make me look?
And each of these questions has exactly the same answer: “I don’t know, but I think it does.”
In other words, the combination of quality and price is an untapped market opportunity. Let’s find out if anyone has tried this before.
2. What is Neutral Nails?
It’s become a cliche to talk about “nails” when it comes to design. And while I agree that nails are a universal symbol of strength and confidence, they have some pretty specific meanings.
Nails are used to show an underlying theme in a design; they establish a sense of consistency and unity. The title of this post uses the term “neutral nails” as an example of this; the nail itself is white — no color is being displayed in the image.
The main reason people use nails is because they connect disparate parts together, keeping them from looking disjointed or out of place. Think about it: if you have good nails, you can always tell that someone has done their homework. If you don’t have good nails, you might feel like your work is sloppy or poorly done. It’s easy for an aesthetician to talk about getting rid of bad habits and improving your work style, but without actual practice you will still struggle with neutral-nails-ness; so take some time to practice and see how much better you can get at it!
3. How to Achieve Neutral Nails
In my mind, a product is neutral if it is both:
• Free to use (in the sense of you don’t pay for any features, extra packages or features that are not part of the core product)
• Easy to use (in the sense of it takes little time to get used to and doesn’t require you to learn as much as say a desktop app does)
• Easy enough for anyone who already uses that feature in their daily life (in the sense that it doesn’t require them to know what it is in order to use it)
If your product has neither “free” nor “easy enough for anyone who already uses that feature in their daily life” then you have a reason for being. It may be a great one, but unless you can exploit its strengths by making it into something other than what it is today, it’s just a vaporware. It will likely be an App Store app; not a website; not something else entirely. You should never self-market on this basis.
4. The Perfect Neutral Nail Polish Look
While some people love to wear red or white on a daily basis, it is very hard for me. I am pretty much a neutral nail polish person, and only ever want to go with colors that are neither too bright nor too dark (unless the neutrals of black and white are not available). I have been trying for years to find a way to do this.
This post is about my efforts to find a way of doing just that — so that I can keep my nail polish colors neutral without looking like either a twit or a nerd.
The problem is that there are no products out there which solve this problem (though some of my friends may have come up with something similar, as they must know what they want). Which naturally leads us to the question:
How can we make these nail polish colors not look so bad?
What’s wrong with today’s most popular colors?
A few standard answers:
• They are too bright or too dark; they clash with each other; they look cheap.
• They should be based on colors which already exist in the marketplace, like neon shades and pastels; this means you have to spend time searching for them when you need them. They also tend to be repetitively used by different brands of the same color family.
• They may not be as neutral as we would like them to be; try putting them next to other neutrals and see if it makes any difference. If not, maybe there is something wrong with your nails or your eyes (or perhaps both!). We will look at these in more detail later in the post… but for now, let’s start off by looking at some examples of current neutrals:
5. How to Pass as a Pro with Neutral Nails
The first thing you need to do as a new company is figure out what you want to be, and for the most part, that’s a good place to start. But then it’s time to get some professional help and start thinking about how you want your startup to look.
If there’s one thing I learned as an early employee of Fitbit, it’s that you don’t need a crystal ball when it comes to planning a startup. You just need some guidance on how you want people to perceive your product — whether or not they have any idea of the technology involved.
And so, we went through a process of trying on different roles and personalities with different products (they built the app for us; we built the hardware for them) and then tried building our product in other ways (we did software development ourselves). The point was not finding someone who would be able to sell our product, but finding someone who would fit into our culture, who would be able to make the product work better in their own way (and also see us from their perspective).
We look at all this from two perspectives: 1) education: What kind of products are people already doing? How can we bring them into our vision? 2) credibility: How do we make ourselves credible in people’s eyes? How can we make sure that our work will be seen as being more than just another arm of some big corporation?
This is probably a universal question for startups — but when it comes to social media marketing, it’s especially important because if people think you are part of some big corporation they are going to take notice. They are going to read news articles about you, listen as others talk about you — and having some credibility will go a long way towards assuring that those things won’t happen. And if you read about me here today on Medium, chances are I didn’t write this post by myself just so I could become an entrepreneur someday (that would have been too easy). Instead I wrote this post because I wanted an audience of my own. So please take something away from this post: why else would I waste my time writing something like this if not for my own reasons?
In the last few weeks, I’ve seen several people post screenshots of their Twitter timeline to show how they are using Twitter. In some cases, they are using it to engage in casual conversation with others (of course). But more often than not, they are using it in an overwhelmingly negative way:
To me, this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what Twitter is.
Twitter was not created as a platform for casual communication. It was created to become a live global news feed (similar to Google News). The idea was that if you were interested enough in something to follow any number of news outlets with different content you would see your world presented as coherent and relevant.
Twitter is one of the most powerful marketing tools we have. This has been demonstrated by companies like Salesforce who have successfully shown how Twitter can be used for building brand awareness and sales campaigns. Facebook is also an extremely effective means for attracting customers, but only if you are willing to give them access to your product or service before it is released. And both of these examples have been successful because most users have already made up their minds about which company they will support first — either because they were already fans of the company or because they had no idea who the other company was at all.
Twitter’s power comes from its ability to aggregate content and make it available in real-time, without requiring a user’s attention span or patience; since people don’t need time to think about what is important right now. If you want people to spend time engaging with your product or service, then you must give them something that they want deeply enough that it takes priority over their day-to-day concerns (this is where context comes into play; context generally drives choice).
This might sound like common sense if you read through many of the early customer reviews on various social media platforms (and admittedly there are plenty whose first review was “I didn’t even get through the first paragraph so I just deleted this one”), but such “consumer experience studies” tend to get overlooked by companies whose products/services aren’t yet ready for prime time; so much so that users devote hours and hours every day trying out tools like Hacker News and reddit just so they can spend less time on boring things like editing photos on Facebook; because once those posts go live on Hacker News or Reddit (or even when someone else does) that original post disappears from the top