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Sunday, 8 August 2010

It's Not What It Is, It's What It Does That Matters!

My telephone (iPhone of course) rang in a mentoring meeting this week and I hastened to turn the thing off, having forgotten to do so, as I consider that answering the telephone in a meeting is, at the very least, discourteous.

However, my client, having helpfully told me how turn it silent, said "I have an iPhone4 - have you seen one?"

I enthusiastically took a look and was slightly disappointed to find that while it is smaller and thinner (though heavier) than mine, the screen looked much the same and on the face of it, I couldn't see why it cost so much more than mine.

This caused me think about the differences between the purchasing rationales of the ultimate consumer and what might be called, business to business (B2B).

The UK Managing Director of a global consumer electronics brand once told me that somewhere in the south of England, they had a house in the country where several PhDs and MBAs were ensconced ostensibly to think about the future of the company's product range.

On the basis that the life cycle of a typical electronics product (he said) was about six months and it took an average of three years to bring it to market, the need for a pipeline of innovation was manifest.

It seems to me that the balance between "want" and "need" is changing rapidly even in these straitened economic times, and that is evinced by the sale of more than 1.4 million iPhone4s in no time flat following its launch.

If the "need" criterion is much higher in the B2B transaction, we should remember that most manufactured products finish up as a part of the "wants" of the ultimate consumer.   Accordingly, any thoughts of innovation should build on a plan which starts with the end in mind - what is likely to move the consumer next?

That is a tough call and I wonder whether innovative companies do that or just innovate and then use brilliant marketing to persuade the consumer that this is what is the next great "want".

My sales mentor, the Sage of Wythenshawe, the great Phil Copp, used to say "It's not what it is, it's what it does that matters" and that is quite true in most cases.   The iPhone4 is a telephone with a lot of very interesting and powerful extras but if it is a telephone, so is the £15 pay-as-you-go from the local supermarket.

The fact that there is now a raft of smart phones from several manufacturers' all with new and different extras just emphasises the fact that the consumers "wants" are paramount.

Anyway, I'm just waiting for the next big thing which I am quite certain to want like mad (iPad with a telephone and camera perhaps?)

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