Innovation and technology have become cornerstones of our society. Whether we are the innovators of the creation or the end-users, we thrive and demand more of what we want and keep pursuing it to an attained end result. So how do we understand the difference between valuable and enduring innovations versus what appears to be the next best thing, but really isn’t?
As humans, we gravitate toward the innovations that are believed to move humankind forward. However, as evidenced by history, we often believed in a new and shiny object that appeared to have potential, but fell woefully short on delivering the expected results.
Objects du jour are a fact of life. Introduction to new, and what we all must have, is a constant in our society, but how do we distinguish and evaluate what is really valuable and what’s a fad? For the consumer, what’s important is knowing that their time and money are being used wisely. Likewise, the innovators are interested in the profitability of their creation and appeal it holds for the consumer. The irony here is that the innovations which don’t fade into oblivion can be difficult to identify as having merit to many consumers.
Putting A Price On Value
Many people believe the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” In some instances this is true, but it’s not a blanket statement we should use to explain the differences between reality and perception. Reality is when technology is tried and true by a number of people and there is a consistency to the outcome. Perception is like folklore. We want to believe it. We try to believe it, but regardless of what we want, the fact-of-the-matter is, we can’t wish something into being what it is not. In the face of perception, myth and reality become one. This juncture is where logical cognition withdraws, and belief in what we so desperately want, takes control.
In a society driven to deliver the “next best thing since sliced bread,” endurance, testing, user feedback and real-life use can be overlooked. The laws of supply and demand can supersede what is a realistic invention and what is simply the perception of what people believe they want and need. Even companies that are known as being innovators of desirable technology can slip up from time-to-time and launch a consumer lemon.
The Cost Of Perception
In the early 1990’s, Apple created a device called Newton. Newton was introduced to the public as the answer for having a mobile, personal desk assistant (PDA.) Newton was not inexpensive. At its launch in 1993, Newton cost $800 for a device and was so well-received at the time of its introduction at a MacWorld convention, it reportedly sold out within minutes. Expectations were high. End-users were eager to believe Newton would be an answer to their needs. Within the span of the next 12 months, consumers found that Newton was not what it was perceived to be. Users reported that Newton was functionally a disaster along with sporting a host of other technological failures, such as lacking sufficient handwriting recognition and poor systems memory. Newton was a flash in the pan. Albeit, some hardware and software developers, today, believe Newton paved the way for future mobile technology by introducing the modern-day smart phone.
For all the faults and failures of Newton, it did trigger interest in future opportunities, suspected possibilities and potential uses. It wasn’t a useful device in its time, but through present-day ingenuity and creative thinking, Newton may have laid the foundation to innovative thinking about the technology that spawned its functionality.
The saying, “What goes around, comes around,” is commonly heard. Look around your office, home, and car. Consider each item in those spaces. Chances are you’ll see the off-spring to a lesser known, now defunct predecessor that outlived its usefulness. This is the cycle of innovation… taking what once was and giving it a more useful modern-day purpose. When considering the cycle of innovation and the effect it has on business, there are two paths to choose.
The brands with a long history of innovation understand the options when selecting a path. These organizations keep striving to create the next generation of their brain child and learn better ways to appeal to consumer demand. One big take-away is that these enduring companies listen to their customers. They take end-user feedback and investigate ways in which they can retool their creation to keep it relevant and useful. A common marketing tactic, some organizations employ, is simply making what’s old seem new again. They do this by repackaging their goods to appease the current-day consumer. This action addresses the power and significance of public perception in the innovation cycle.
Brands that attempt to pursue business, without regard for current demands and user feedback, have a long, hard road to travel. Often, these companies are phased out for a better, easier-to-use and more cost-effective product or service, as in the case of Apple’s Newton. The cycle of innovation still applies here as nature’s way of eliminating the irrelevant with more useful advancements.
So where does your brand fall in the consumer spectrum of value innovation? The answer to this question is something every company and organization should continually assess. To not critique your brand value is otherwise inviting obsolescence and impending failure into your business model.