Archive for the 'Customers' Category

Make Your Product a Narrative — #BIF7

Point:  Technology and innovation enable greater customer engagement through open-ended customizations, apps, add-on, and social features.

Story: At BIF7, John Hagel, author of The Power of Pull, highlighted what he saw as a distinction between story vs. narrative. A story is complete, self-contained, and has a beginning, middle, and end. Stories have audiences: people who passively consume the story.  In contrast, Hagel defined a “narrative” as an open-ended, unfolding sequence that continues into the future.  Narratives frame the world and the people in it.  Under this definition, narratives create participants: active co-creators in the evolving timeline of current and future events.  Whether you agree or disagree with Hagel’s particular choice of words, the key is in the interesting distinction between a closed-ended tale and an open-ended dialogue — and what that distinction means for product innovation..

Although Hagel didn’t say so directly, the concept of story v. narrative can be applied to product innovation: some products are like stories and some are like narratives. Some products are meant to simply be bought and consumed, like the beginning-middle-end of a story.  It’s a “once upon a time, someone used the product and they lived happily ever after” story.

In contrast, other products are like narratives, in which purchasing the product is just the start of a long series of interactions with that product, with related products, and even with other people. Such products let people customize, individualize, and enhance the product. Customers can tap into an ecosystem of add-ons, apps, tracking, feedback, and engagement. Customers can interact with other customers or with the company’s services for on-going enhancements.  In short, the customer joins the narrative and extends it, too..

The most obvious example of the narrative-style product is the Apple iPhone, with its “there’s an app for that” opportunities for customization and engagement. Similarly, Nike converted a consumer good — shoes — into narrative-driven product with strong participant engagement through Nike+.  A sensor in the shoe and wireless connection to an iPhone, iPod, or special watch lets users of its shoes track their exercise. People can then share their runs with others, participate in virtual races, and learn about great running routes from others..

Technology enables more and more of these kinds of narrative products. Companies can now leverage low cost or existing electronics (e.g., smartphones), low-cost software, and low-cost web/cloud services to create an ongoing customizable social experience.  Companies can also use existing social platforms (like FourSquare, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to create a narrative environment for their product or service.

Action:

  • Is your product like a closed-ended tale or can you make it like an open-ended dialogue with your customers?
  • Create a brand to encompasses the customer (vs. simply defining the product or the company)
  • Create optional tracking or feedback that lets customers record their piece of the narrative.
  • Create optional add-ons or apps that support customization or ongoing enhancements.
  • Create an ecosystem of partners and encourage open innovation around a narrative product platform.
  • Create social engagement that lets customers not just use the product but also interact with the people behind the product and the other users of the product.

No Comments »Customers, Innovation, New Product Development, Social Media

Saachi & Saachi CEO on Creating Loyalty During Recession

Point: Tough economic times call for different brand messaging

Story: We’re in a time of new frugality, said Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saachi & Saachi, at a recent HSM webinar. People are evaluating their purchases more closely. They’re comparing more products and contemplating switching brands more often. They will still buy luxuries, but they’ll buy fewer luxuries; and, they’re redefining what luxuries are. They’re separating true value from false economies. Roberts suggested three strategies that companies can use to keep their products and services on a customer’s “buy” list in an era of less buying.
KevinRobertsPhoto

First, companies can reframe the competition and the category.  In the era of new frugality, many people are eating out at restaurants less and eating at home instead.  Some companies see parallels in this inside/outside phenomenon to redefine their place in the market.  For example, P&G compares its premium-priced Tide Total Care with the cost of dry-cleaning, not with other cheaper detergents. P&G is reframing the category, positioning its detergent as a frugal way to achieve clean clothes in the home without the high-cost of dry-cleaning outside the home.

Second, companies can help consumers use products in a more cost-effective way.  For example, in a similar spirit of saving its customers money, Tylenol’s new ad campaign offers advice that helps customers ease the pain of a headache — without taking a Tylenol product.  Tylenol suggests that if you have a headache, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If you still have a headache, then take Tylenol.  Although the campaign may lose Tylenol some sales, the ultimate goal is to side with the customer and win in the long run. Empathsizing with the need to save money, Tylenol suggests a solution that can save customers money while remaining the brand of choice for tougher headaches.

Third, be honest and highlight the value if you can’t decrease the cost. If your product truly is a premium-priced luxury, don’t pretend that it’s a cut-rate necessity. Be honest. Customers still want joy in their lives, and they’ll still treat themselves to an occasional luxury. Rather then make a luxury seem cheap, highlight what makes it more special and more meaningful. The product may not cost less, but the emotional bonus makes it more valuable.

Action

  1. Reframe your product’s category (e.g., detergents competing with dry cleaners)
  2. Offer useful advice on cost-effective use of your product
  3. Enhance the emotional value of your product

For More Information:

Kevin Roberts will be presenting at the World Business Forum in New York City on October 6-7, 2009.

Kevin Roberts is the author of Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands
and The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution

2 Comments »CEO, Customers, How-to, Strategy

Identify Priority Innovation Areas

Point: Define priority innovation areas to harness employee energy

Story: When it comes to innovation, Harrah’s Entertainment doesn’t play games. The operator of a global chain of 50 casinos is pursuing a theme-focused innovation strategy similar to technology giant Hewlett-Packard and venture capital firm The Foundry Group. The company identified six areas of interest (akin to HP’s 8 themes and Foundry’s 5 themes – see Innovation Investment Strategy). Harrah’s target areas are: enabling technologies (such as wireless and radio frequency identification); enabling platforms (cloud computing, service-oriented architecture, anything-as-a-service); “smart” service (self-service kiosks); interactive CRM; next-generation gaming; and expanded channels to reach customers.

An innovation team of about 10 people from IT, marketing, customer service and gaming evaluate idea submissions from employees. Harrah’s also taps the innovations of vendors and is considering enlisting the public in seeking new innovations in gaming and entertainment. To gather even more feedback, Harrah’s created an “Innovation Portal” where employees can vote for their favorite innovation. Top management (CEO Gary Loveman and VP of Innovation Chris Chang) then decides which ideas ultimately get funded.

Action:

  • Identify the areas of top priority to your firm, to help steer energy & momentum in the areas that will provide most value to your firm.
  • Use themes to look for the deeper, long-term enablers and platforms rather than shallow short-term gadgets and projects.
  • Ask employees for suggestions, feedback or votes on ideas within these areas
  • Consider involving vendors, customers and the public as well, to expand the pool of ideas. (This strategy will require thinking through the IP issues.)

For more information on Harrah’s: Network Computing article

8 Comments »Case study, Customers, How-to, Innovation, New Product Development, Strategy

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