Ring’s Crazy Flying Security Cam Is a Marketing Masterstroke

Jano le Roux

Reverse-engineering product development to get free marketing


Ring’s newest invention is a $249 indoor security drone that can autonomously patrol your home — even while you’re not home. It’s called the Always Home Cam, and it’s perhaps one of the most fascinating marketing innovations in the home security space in a decade. Today we’re looking at how companies like Ring can get 1.8M organic views on an ad without spending a cent and how you can do it too.

We’re living in a world where marketing is so often an afterthought. You know the process: A product is designed, developed, sometimes even manufactured, and only now seems to land on the desk of a marketing guru who needs to do some crazy wizardry called “growth hacking” to sell yet another boring CCTV camera.

This cycle is the number one reason hardware startups fail.

Mr. Godin could not have said it better:

“You can no longer say marketing is what I do at the end. It is what you do at the beginning.” — Seth Godin

Much like Tesla with its Cybertruck, Ring reversed the product development cycle by involving the marketing team to create a product people would talk about from the get-go. Before we break down the process Ring used to create a marketable product, do yourself a favor and look at their effortless product release video.

Use Combinational Innovation

Combinational innovation shows the world something new by connecting existing ideas in a way the world has never seen before.

The simplest way to innovate like a startup is by combining existing tried-and-tested technologies and applying them in a new context. Ring did this by combining existing drone technology with CCTV technology and used it in the context of indoor home security and peace of mind.

In a recent scientific report, we can see that technological change is increasingly driven by combining and recombining elements.

Deep diving into the startup world, I realized that companies that incorporate combinational innovation succeed for three major reasons:

  1. Affordability: Most of the expensive research and development has already been done in each respective area.
  2. Reliability: The technology has a track record with research and development, already making it successful in other industries.
  3. Product market fit: People already know and trust the technology involved even if it is in another industry; the world is highly likely to adopt the idea over some cutting-edge concept based on unproven technologies.

Make People Feel Like the Future Is Here

The idea of patrolling your home from anywhere on the planet with an indoor drone is enough to get any tech nerd’s inner cyborg going. Crazy enough to get the media talking about it for free? Yip.

Within hours of Ring’s press release, the message had spread to the world. CNN, The Verge, The New York Times, Wired, and even The Washington Post made the product go global. The best part? It was all using $0 ad spend.

Just as Carole Baskin has shown us, people like to talk about weird and crazy ideas — it turns out the media does, too. Edgy ideas tend to stand out based on how our brains are programmed. I would even go further by contributing this willingness to a share-with-the-tribe mentality, in which people love seeing their tribe succeed towards a common goal.

In this case, the common goal is to advance technology to solve the privacy challenges the tribe faces with CCTV cameras constantly recording them. Ring has positioned itself as the privacy-friendly solution by offering a one-stop solution to home security that only records when you need it to.

A great way to craft an edgy idea is by allowing the world to see a glance of the future.

Address Key Buying Objections Head-On Through Clever Design

Good marketers talk; great marketers show. Ring took this approach to the next level by obliterating any customer objections through intelligent design.

British researchers found that 94% of first impressions are design-related. In my view, product design is probably the most underrated way to genuinely show instead of talking.

Over the last two years, Ring has had some challenges regarding privacy. The most prominent objection Ring faces is the user’s fear of being spied on.

The objection of being spied on when not in use was addressed by physically covering the drone’s camera inside the docking station while charging. When in flight, it makes an audible sound addressing the idea of being spied on when in motion—the company calls it “privacy you can hear.”

Ring’s marketing team could have gone with the common approach of telling people how they protect customer data through secure cloud architecture or how networking protocols are encrypted through the Triple Data Encryption Standard. These terms are simply too abstract to stick as the TikTok time bomb is showing us every time they use this line of argument.

The average Ring customer doesn’t understand all this verbose technical jargon. What they understand is the simple principle that if something is in front of a camera covering its lens, it can’t spy on you while you’re not using it. As for in-flight spying objections — it cannot spy on you if you can hear it.

In essence, if there are any sales objections you need to address, try to do it through design. It is by far the easiest way, and it illuminates a lot of trust issues you’d have to deal with in the future by only talking about objections.

Clever design does not always have to do with product design, it can simply be the way you design your product photos to address certain key points.

I once managed an ad campaign for a company specializing in handcrafted leather cat backpacks for your typical Beverly Hill cat mom. Initially, the creatives got a lot of sad faces on Facebook; I simply couldn't understand why. After interacting with our audience, I realized they were scared that the bags were too hot for their Persian cats on summer days. Through clever design, we changed the bags to look more ventilated by taking different product photos opening the bag's flaps showing fresh air entering, and voila sales increased by a whopping 12.4% based on one small change in an ad's design.

Marketing is not about selling; it's about creating emotions strong enough that they willingly choose your product or service to solve their problems. Ring focused on making you feel safe and look cool while doing it.

Main takeaway

By flipping the product development cycle on its head, Ring showed us that innovation does not have to be something totally unimaginable. It can simply be combining the things we all know and love in unique ways. Getting free marketing is easy, but you need to give the media a story interesting enough to talk about. Instead of telling people about how you fixed complicated pain points, show them directly through clever product design.

Good marketers spend their time fighting the old. Great marketers invest their time creating the new. Stop talking, start showing, and remember the best way to predict the future is to create it.

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A journalist who shines the spotlight on verified news that gets lost in the noise.

Los Angeles, CA

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