from Wes Kao 🏛 | by Wes Kao 🏛

Wes Kao 🏛


25 days ago

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Next time you think your product has a problem--stop. It's not a bug, it's a feature. A simple framework for turning problems into solutions: 🧵

Marketers are often put in a tight spot. Here’s a common situation: CEO: "We have a product launch coming up. We need you to make people want this.” You: “Umm I wish you had looped me in earlier. If it had x or y feature, it would be a lot easier to market.”

But it’s too late to change the product… So what do you do? Turn bugs into features.

In engineering, a bug is an error or defect. The inside joke is engineers will claim a bug is actually a feature. That’s often not true with software. But in marketing, we actually CAN turn bugs into features. The best marketers and brands do this regularly.

The things you thought were errors, constraints, or liabilities can actually become selling points. For example, I used to think being an introvert was a bug. I wished I were more extroverted like other leaders and founders.

By thinking introversion was a bug, I kept beating myself up & lamenting my circumstances. But when I challenged myself to turn a bug into a feature… I realized being introverted contributed to my success–it allowed me to bring a different POV in a world full of extroverts.

The goal is to see your product–or yourself–with fresh eyes. Features that you thought were initially bad might end up being what you emphasize. Those features might be perfect for a specific customer or scenario.

Instead of rushing to change your product, you save time by working with what you already have. You increase perceived value by owning the narrative. Here are three examples:

Avis: Turning #2 into the winner In the 1960s, Avis was the #2 car rental brand (behind Hertz at #1). Back then, it was blasphemy to market anything but being #1 in your category.

But Avis turned the fact that they were #2 from a bug into a feature. They messaged that #1 brands don’t try as hard. They said that because Avis was #2, they’d go the extra mile for you. This frame shift caught customers’ attention and built trust in Avis.

Simplehuman: Trash cans as status symbols If you think your category is boring, try marketing trash cans. Simplehuman, a premium trash can company, turned a basic category into a design-driven, luxury experience. Some sell for over $150—and they have a cult following.

Ugly fruit: Defects into selling points One-fifth of all fruit and vegetables are thrown out because of small imperfections. This causes a lot of waste. So a French supermarket turned a bug into a feature.

They marketed ugly fruit as quirky, irreverent, interesting. This gave customers a story to tell when their friends came over & saw a weird apple or funky looking banana. They repositioned a bug as a feature. The ugly fruit was a hit and sold out faster than normal fruit.

So how do you turn a bug into a feature? Own the narrative. If you're going to do something anyway, frame it as an intentional choice. There are many opportunities to turn bugs into features in daily work & life:

Bug 🚫: "This product is too basic. It doesn't offer enough features." Feature ✅: "We do one thing–and one thing only: Help you get X done.”

Bug 🚫: "This sucks because there are major quality control issues..." Feature ✅: "These ceramics are hand-made, so each piece is unique and will have minor differences."

Bug 🚫: "I don't want to do X. I don't enjoy it." Feature ✅: "I could do X. At the same time, that's not highly leveraged and you mentioned wanting me to focus on Y. With Y, I recommend doing..."

Bug 🚫: "Ugh. Writing a 10 page proposal is a lot of work.” Feature ✅: "I wouldn’t want you to have to read a 10 page proposal. How about I create a 1-page summary and we can go from there?”

When you feel frustrated by the product you have to market, think about how you can turn a bug into a feature. Is your product “too simple” compared to competitors? Maybe simplicity is exactly the value proposition that a specific customer archetype is looking for.

Or vice versa. If your product is “too complicated” compared to your competitors, maybe there are customers who want a comprehensive, heavy-duty product.

To apply this framework, ask yourself: 1. What do you think you have to hide? 2. Is it something you can emphasize instead? When you have a constraint, don’t automatically look to downplay it. Lean into it. Turn a bug into a feature.

If you enjoyed this, I write threads dissecting entrepreneurship, education, and marketing every week. Follow me @wes_kao to catch them in your feed.

PS This lesson is part of our free program on building a successful cohort-based course. If you're interested in teaching on @MavenHQ, join here:

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