"I've fallen and I can't get up!"
If you're above a certain age, you will almost certainly be familiar with that line.
You may have even read it just now in the voice of a frail, elderly woman.
When the LifeCall Medical Alert ad was released in 1989, I was just 11 years old. I remember me and my friends would say that phrase in jest whenever we fell on the playground; at that very young age, the idea of us falling down and not being able to get up was really funny.
Of course, when you're much older and it actually happens to you, it isn't funny at all.
In fact, it can be deadly serious. That's why the LifeCall service itself was actually really valuable for anyone worried about their elderly loved ones living on their own.
Granted, the commercial was more than a little cheesy -- although I remembered it more than thirty years later, so it was clearly effective in terms of recall -- but the product itself offered an easy way for someone living on their own to alert a family member, friend, or neighbour if they ever needed help.
The product was relevant because it addressed a real consumer need.
It's been many years since I've thought about LifeCall, which still exists as a company and offers a number of different products and services.
But last week I discovered something surprising that made me remember that old, unintentionally funny ad: Amazon has decided to get into the "call for help" business.
But as the video and benefits chart prominently featured on Amazon's microsite (and below) demonstrate, the service goes far beyond allowing your loved ones to call for help (which Amazon has branded "Urgent Response" and actions via a voice command instead of a button-push).
Now, despite how it may look up to this point, this post isn't an ad for Amazon's new service.
It's intended to illustrate what can happen when a product starts with a real consumer need, regardless of whether or not a solution already exists.
In this case, the consumer need is the desire to take care of your loved ones even if you can't be physically there with them at all times.
That need hasn't changed over the past thirty years (and it almost certainly won't change over the next thirty), but the technology that can be used to address that need has advanced significantly in the past few decades.
That means that even though a solution may already exist, the opportunity to address the problem more affordably, more conveniently, more efficiently, or more effectively remains.
The company that can best address a consumer's need will usually win.
So start with identifying a real problem your customer needs to solve, then figure out a way to solve it. And if a solution already exists, figure out a way to solve it better.
Some critics may ask, "Why reinvent the wheel?"
But I say if you can actually come up with a better wheel, why wouldn't you do that?
* The Alexa Together service is currently available only in the United States; it's free for the first six months, then costs $19.99 USD/month or $199 USD/year. That represents substantial cost savings over the LifeCall service, which also requires you to have a traditional phone line.
P.S. If you're too young to remember the LifeCall ad (or you're not, and simply want to watch it again for the fun of it), here it is...