MONTREAL — Marketing used to be all about the product and its features, a leading Canadian innovation expert told attendees at the Canadian Produce Marketing convention April 14.

“Now, it’s about the experience,” Jeremy Gutsche said.

To illustrate his point, Gutsche said someone once asked a Harley Davidson executive what exactly he sells. His answer: “What I sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to ride through small towns and make people afraid.”

Gutsche is an author and the founder of

Being able to articulate exactly what you’re trying to do with your product is the first key to getting noticed in today’s wired world, Gutsche said.

“You don’t just want your product to be popular, since that implies everybody already knows about it, including your competitors,” he said. “You need to inject it with ‘cool’ so people will want to talk about it online.”

Understanding your core customer and making an emotional connection with them rather than getting bogged down with strategy also brings success, he said.

“It doesn’t matter how good your Powerpoint slides are,” he said. “When you make a cultural connection with a core group of people, they’ll sell your product for you.”

As an example, he recalled the long-running ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ anti-litter campaign, which inspires people to make their own online videos.

Another measure of success is how open your team is to trying new things and not being afraid to fail, Gutsche said. It’s especially important to encourage young people to be creative and feel free to suggest new ideas, he said.

You won’t attract attention by considering your product as average, he said. For a product to go viral, the dream of every Internet marketer, it has to be exciting and make people want to tell someone else about it. He compared the effect of a burger with a French name to the same burger promoted as the most expensive burger in the world. To “super-charge” the message, he changed the caption to “the $5,000 burger” and watched it take off online.

Being Internet-savvy is crucial today, he said. Though many companies are using social media sites such as Twitter, he said they’re not sophisticated enough. Get with the program, he warned delegates,”or the competitors will steal your customers.” He also urged marketers to “stop generic marketing and start creating experiences for a specific group of people.”

Inject ‘cool’ into online presence