What are you building and what does it do?

If you start-up you have to be able to answer the question, in one sentence, followed by 3-4 more sentences that break through the alternating confused/inquisitive looks you get when you answer in one sentence. Call it an elevator pitch or talking points, but when you are doing something that has never been done before, when you are bringing something to market that no one has seen before, you have to be able to explain it. It is new. It is different. The listener will be confused.

My fitness game idea got a range of funny looks from my friends, the people at Xbox and PlayStation, our target consumers, brand partners, retail buyers, the press and investors. I struggled to describe what we were building and what it did. I would say something that made complete sense to me and in return I would get confusion, doubt, disbelief and the silent nods of nothing that indicate a listener who is silently crafting the “it’s interesting, but just not a fit for us” e-mail on their blackberry under the table while you are still in the room.

Either it was a bad idea or I was explaining it wrong. Being an optimist, I assumed the latter and worked really hard to craft a message that described the product in ways that lead the audience down a path toward understanding. This weekend I dug up the messaging we used in 2003. I see areas where it could improve, but it describes the product and what it does in a way that frames the conversation around the concept of a virtual personal trainer and sets me up for success.

For context, at the time, health and fitness awareness was high and driving growth in the fitness industry–especially the Home Fitness segment. At the same time, the game industry growth had slowed–and needed a broader audience. Women had been ignored by the game industry as consumers, but female consumers dominated both the home fitness and video game retail space when it came to spend. The game was called Yourself!Fitness and the messaging is below:

What is Yourself!Fitness? (what not benefit – benefit is implied)

  1. Simply put, Yourself!Fitness is a PERSONAL TRAINER.
  2. Yourself!Fitness is also the FIRST FITNESS PROGRAM developed for THE video game console — specifically Xbox.
  3. Yourself!Fitness is the FIRST FITNESS PROGRASM to bring the INTERACTIVE POWER of THE game console together WITH the world of HEALTH AND FITNESS.
  4. YOURSELF!FITNESS is the first video game that plays you INSTEAD OF YOU PLAYING IT– it works YOUR entire body, not just your thumbs.

What does it do? (Personify the trainer here)

 MAYA, the Yourself!Fitness personal trainer, does FOUR specific things…

  1. She Assesses your current level of fitness
  2. She identifies areas where you need work and helps you set realistic fitness goals..
  3. Then Maya builds a customized work out program for you..
  4. Over time, Maya will adapt your program to your increasing fitness level

What are the key features of the game?

The content of the program is dynamic and fully interactive with over 500 exercises, a complete fitness analysis, personalized goal setting, customized meal planner with over 4500 recipes, a fitness commitment calendar, six workout environments, multiple music options, over 200 health and fitness tips from Prevention Magazine and a responsive trainer who adapts to how you feel on any given day and provides encouragement on those days where you are feeling unmotivated.

I hope the messaging and context above helps you get your message across and avoid the nods of nothing.