I saw this article in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal called Bye Bye Light Bulb and it got me thinking about AT&T's TrueVoice "product". Basically the article says how lucky manufacturers like GE and Phillips are that the US Government passed a law to outlaw the old version of the light bulb in favor of energy saver versions by 2012/2014. These new bulbs already available on the market costs $3 instead of the 50 cents for the old ones, but theoretically save you money in electrical bills. According to the article:
"Yes, the $3 bulb lasts longer. Yes, it cuts your electricity bill. Mr. Moorehead says that when every one of those four billion light sockets has an energy-saving bulb in it, the country will be saving $18 billion a year on its electric bill. That's $4.50 per bulb -- and the bulb makers are standing by to make sure a substantial portion of those "savings" get transformed into profits for them."
Wow isn't that convenient. A product that nobody wants (5% market share) convinces the government of passing a new law and wham, you have instant product sales. Now, the problem (and the link to TrueVoice) is that their selling proposition is that these new bulbs will help you save money on your electrical bill. Pay more upfront for future savings, but if the savings was so good why aren't the sales there now? Perhaps the American public doesn't want to pay for phantom product results. Now to AT&T TrueVoice.
When I first came over to the marketing side at AT&T they were promoting TrueVoice. TrueVoice which as I recall was being promoted by a new AT&T Marketing VP Dan Clarke as producing better call quality from your home phone. This call quality proved by Bell Labs would allow AT&T to charge more money for a long distance call. Problem was customers didn't think their home call quality was bad and when compared with the competition MCI and Sprint (remember them) the difference wasn't discernible. Sure Bell Labs could prove it, but people just didn't care. And, AT&T stopped promoting it because it didn't make a difference.
Unlike the light bulb guys, AT&T couldn't have the government mandate acceptable call quality. Think about it. Companies that have products that you just buy and are tough to differentiate (milk, light bulbs, pencils, coffee filters, home phone service) just need to somehow convince the government that it is to the American people's benefit to own their new product instead of the old one. Think Organic Milk industry. Having the US Government speak up on an industry's sales woes is a true voice that anyone can hear a difference in.