The ‘Tube Tube’: a lesson in marketing for manufacturers.


By Nutcracker

Worried that wearing a face mask might make you look a bit silly? No, us neither. Which is why the ‘Tube Tube’ is such a baffling product – and an excellent lesson in marketing for manufacturers. 

The ‘Tube Tube’ – or 360 Persona Screen – was developed by the UK’s leading plastics supplier, Plastock, as an alternative to wearing a face mask on public transport. 

The idea behind the product was that it would keep your face visible, be more comfortable and easier to breathe in than a fabric face covering, and would make people feel less self-conscious than other PPE options.

Behold the Tube Tube, a PPE headshield designed for getting public ...

Unfortunately, the Tube Tube was not heralded as the must-have personal protective item of the pandemic. In fact, the product’s launch attracted headlines such as “the social-distancing invention nobody asked for” and “peak stupidity for social distancing”.

On social media, it was described as a “big stupid tumbler”, a “dunce hat” and compared to the helmets worn by the Knights Who Say “Ni” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 

But was this a genuine item, or was it a marketing ploy? 

For the time being, let’s assume that this product was designed in earnest, as a genuine piece of PPE kit (we’ll come to the second option later). 

Here are a few lessons it can teach manufacturers about developing and manufacturing a product:

Is there really a demand for your product?

It might seem like a great idea to you, but does anyone else think so? This is a crucial part of the marketing – not just development – process, and too often overlooked by manufacturers. 

Use your marketing team to reach out to your audience and find out if you have a unique solution to a common problem, or are about to funnel time and resources into an expensive flop. 

Is your product ready for market?

In other words, does it work? The 360 Persona hasn’t actually had any testing as PPE, which makes it difficult to market as anything but a plastic tube that sits on your head. 

If you start marketing a product that is not ready for the market, it is going to backfire. If people buy your product, only to discover it doesn’t work, you can seriously damage your brand reputation. 

Sometimes, mistakes happen. A product may turn out to be faulty, and your marketing team will need to limit the damage. But if you haven’t done everything in your power to make sure a product is fit for purpose at the beginning, it will be much harder to regain trust in your brand. 

Have you thought about your audience?

Everyone uses public transport, so this product should be suitable for a wide range of body shapes. But take a look at the shape of the 360 Persona. Does that look like a product developed with a DD bra size in mind? No, it does not. 

Is the price right?

The Tube Tube costs £95, which is quite a lot for a piece of PPE that may not actually work as PPE. As a comparison, plastic face visors – many of which do come with specific PPE grading – range in price from about £3 to £25. 

If you’re marketing a product with a high price tag, you need to be ready to justify it. Why is this better than everything else on the market? What are your buyers getting for the extra cost? There’s nothing wrong with being more expensive than the competition – but your customers need to know why.  

Does your product make sense?

Are you marketing your product in a way that instantly makes sense to your audience? Here, the 360 Persona, or Tube Tube, has done a pretty good job. The product description is clear, and it doesn’t use jargon to explain it’s USPs. 

It also has a catchy nickname: it is a tube, that you wear on the Tube. Which would be great if anyone actually wanted or needed a tube that they wear on the Tube. 

Now… let’s be a bit more cynical. 

Supposing the product was not really created to take the world of PPE by storm. Supposing it was actually designed purely for publicity. 

Did it work? 

It certainly made us aware of Plastock – a brand we had never heard of before – and drove us to their website out of curiosity. 

There, we found a lot of genuinely useful Covid-19 protection products that are in high demand across the UK right now, such as a range of counter guards for shops and plastic signage for social distancing. 

How many small shop owners or service providers, who would not normally be in the market for high-density plastic shielding, will have done the same thing and happened upon a product they actually did need? 

Would a press release saying ‘plastic screens now in stock’ have got Plastock the same attention from such a wide audience? Probably not. 

Reaching a new audience 

When you’re faced with a sudden challenge of reaching out to an entirely new audience, a bold move like this can be a risk worth taking. But there are other, more targeted options: such as reaching out to specific lists onsocial media (LinkedIn is great for this) or by emailing fresh data. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that according to the Plastock website, the 360 Persona has ‘sold out due to unprecedented demand’. Which means it was either a) far more popular than we are all giving credit for b) a marketing stunt all along or c) an unexpected failure that’s been quietly removed to save embarrassment. Only Plastock knows for sure. 

Has this got you thinking about your marketing? At Nutcracker, we work with manufacturers to bring products to life and get them in front of the people who need them: you can read how we transformed the profile – and profits – of one of our manufacturing clients here.

To find out how we can help you, email Jenny has years of experience working with manufacturers, and will be happy to share her advice on your marketing strategy. 

And Plastock, if you’re reading, we noticed you’re not on social media – so drop us a note and maybe we can help.