Monday, November 17, 2008

The iPod of Potato Chips (or Razors or shoes)

I was reviewing a webpage recently when an ad caught my eye. That's fairly difficult given the number of ads on most webpages. What stuck with me was the brand statement - the ad said that the razor in question was the "iPod of Razors". I am now waiting for the deluge of "iPod" products in every category. The iPod of ice cream, toilet paper and dish washing detergent. It's only a matter of time.

This is silly comparison on a number of levels, and perhaps the advertisers are making this comparison in a tongue in cheek way. The iPod is successful for many reasons - it has a cool design, it had a fan base (Mac users) waiting for options different from Microsoft and Sony based MP3 players, it is from Apple so it had some style points, and the designers of the iPod took the time to understand the customer experience. After all, the iPod is just a music player - if the music isn't easily (and legally) available, what's the point?

If a new product or service wants to claim to be the "iPod" of its market, then it needs more than good design. Most of the products that win design awards are quickly relegated to the back shelf, design alone doesn't win the customer. Cost, availability, style, integration with other existing standards and a host of other items determine what wins and loses in the market. To be the "iPod" in a market is to think carefully about all aspects of the purchase, consumption and use of the product or service, and to have a great answer to all of those attributes. For many consumer products and services, defining and controling the environment in which the product is used, and the secondary and tertiary actors in the market is difficult if not impossible. While Apple could eventually round up the licensing for the song downloads, can we control the environment and peripheral actors in other consumer markets?

When you claim to be the "iPod" of your market you are claiming to manage variability and risk in the "whole product" experience of the customer. Can your firm do that effectively?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 12:12 PM


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