Unless you’re Apple, you’ve just released the 6th generation of iPhone and the masses see that as the latest most innovative product on earth (yeah, Apple can still make believe), consumers don’t care about incremental updates to your “new” product.
You can brag as much as you want about how innovative your company is, how disruptive your market strategy is, how unique your company’s culture is, the reality is (sorry!) that consumers don’t give a crap about all this.
Clone baby, clone
Many so-called “innovations” are driven by executives or engineers who (genuinely?) believe their product is groundbreaking. The reality is, their product is only “innovative” to them, not to the consumer.
Back in the Cold War era where former USSR and the USA piled up new weapons one after another not only to catch up but to out-feature the opponent, present companies follow the same strategy: piling up new features to out-feature the competition. Companies look for ways to do better, cheaper, faster, nicer products, but they all offer cloned products. Executives’ motto now is “stop me before I innovate again”.
Most companies adopt a reactive/ adaptive strategy (“let’s see what our competitor does, we’ll do it cheaper”). A very few of them adopt a proactive strategy. Going back to Apple, it probably fits in both categories.
As most products become commoditized almost instantly as they enter the market (if not even before), companies forget a very important marketing principle: consumers don’t remember specific features, they remember the experience they had. Companies are confusing product upgrade with innovation. As consumers are volatile, go from one brand to another, one new product to the newest one, they forget very quickly about your product unless they get a memorable experience out of it.
Innovate to change the game
In an interview last Fall, Howard Schultz talked about how Starbucks’s business model is about changing behaviors, from selling coffee to redefining social interactions to moving to e-wallet. You don’t innovate to compete; you innovate to change the game.
Consumers have an abundance of choice. With new technologies emerging, interactions between businesses and consumers are evolving. Excessive proliferation of choice creates confusion and uncertainty. Consumers want choice and they want the choice decision to be easy. They are looking for ways to simplify their lives. Consumers, especially Gen Y, want to be in control of their experience, with the technology being the enabler of that choice, not the dictator.
From transaction to emotion
The right way to think about innovation is this: how are we transforming customers? How are we changing and simplifying their lives?
This is a different way of thinking about your value proposition; it’s about developing human connection with customers. Not simply delivering a product or service “because that is what companies do”. Companies who believe that out-featuring competitors is the path to innovation are kidding themselves. It might work in the short-term, but it will turn against them in no time. Customers, people, users, are experiencing more chaos than ever. Too many choices are creating noise in their lives. This is a huge opportunity for both startups and established companies to make an impact in people’s lives. The sooner you rethink how you look at innovation, the faster you will orient your efforts towards really thinking about how you might change your customers’ lives and behaviors.
The consumer experience with a brand is more than just the functional benefits. It is the total brand experience including emotional benefits as well.
Image credit: Mr Hicks46
Wait! Before you go…
Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:
- Daily — RSS Feed — Email — Twitter — Facebook — Linkedin Today
- Weekly — Email Newsletter — Free Magazine — Linkedin Group
Stephan Vincent is the Indiana Editor for Innovation Excellence, covering innovation in the Hoosier state and beyond. He is the Innovation & Brand Catalyst at Think Unique, an innovation & branding consulting agency in Indianapolis, IN. He is also Founder and President of s.p.IN and Collide Summit Indiana, a first-of-its- kind un-conference unlike anything else. Connect with Stephan and gain more of his insights on his own blog.