I was listening to a podcast and someone used an analogy that resonated with me.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They likened a new product to what the car companies did when they really didn’t have any new innovations to add to a new model so they added fins. The fins didn’t do anything but they gave the car a new look and made all the old cars look…old!
I suppose every business that produces ongoing lines of product – phone manufacturers, cars companies, TV makers, etc. – are under a fair amount of pressure to add features constantly so you’ll feel the need to update a perfectly good item for a newer model. After all, if we used many products to the end of their useful lives, the economy would probably be in much worse shape. I’m not sure, however, that simply “adding fins” in the figurative sense is the best route for most businesses.
If you’re going to produce something new, make it something new. If the new stuff is not a reason to buy the product – and in my mind “fins” don’t do it – they need to make the product demonstrably better. It should be something users will employ on a regular basis, and preferably they’re something unique. Adding, say, a soda can cool zone to a car doesn’t, in my mind, fit the bill (yes, that’s a real thing). Adding dozens of new features to Word, which Microsoft is notorious for doing, that 99% of users won’t use and are just clutter and confusion for a huge percentage is self-defeating. In many ways, phone manufacturers are the worst.
I love to buy new stuff. I won’t buy it, however, just for the sake of doing so. I suspect most consumers think as I do. I’m waiting for the day when the press release comes out saying “there’s nothing new this year – we made a great product that we hope you bought and we’re committed to making it better. We’ll let you know when it really is.” I’m buying the new model of whatever that is the day it’s released. I won’t be buying something because the release reads “and now with fins!”
A picture is worth a whole bunch of words. We all know the expression and it’s true: it’s often easier to show than to tell.
Flower Stock Photography (Photo credit: Carlos Lorenzo)
Visuals make presentations (and blog posts) more interesting. Way back in the days before we all had access to everything (that’s before the Internet for you youngsters), stock photo houses made a pretty good living as photo resources. When you only needed a generic image to reinforce a point, the photo house was your first stop.
The photo I’ve used could be used to illustrate flowers or spring or gardening. The point about stock photos is that they are generic products. They are used multiple times by different people for varying purposes. They don’t really have any distinctive personality. Why start the week with this?
More of us seem to be in the business of stock photography than we believe. What I mean is that we are making products that are stereotypical. Web sites look the same in terms of layout and functionality. There’s way too much “me too” and not enough of a focus on what makes us unique or better.
The companies that get it right take what could be something stock and make it their own. Apple did it with the iPod, which wasn’t the first MP3 player. Amazon did it with online commerce – they were far from being the first store but they have taken the notion of a store and made it very much their own.
I could go on about this but you get the point. Sure, generic products made and sold less expensively have their place. They’re low margin and don’t inspire much loyalty (a low price point is a hard-to-defend place since anyone can lower their price if they want to sell at a loss). We need to take our own photos and not buy from the endless supply of generic stock. We need to constantly ask what makes our product or service unique and better. All of us in business are better off when that happens.
Another weekend, another round (or 2 or 3) of golf, another lesson learned for both on and off the course. This one actually didn’t penetrate into my somewhat thick skull until I was writing a note late yesterday. I know I seem to learn an awful lot in the kitchen or on the golf course,but since that’s pretty much where I spend my non-working hours, I guess one gathers inspiration and knowledge from what’s around.
Anyway – I played a fairly good round yesterday and left the golf course not feeling particularly good about my game. And that’s the business lesson. Make sense? Continue reading