Brands deals with human needs and wants. Leo Burnett, the advertising executive, said: "The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams, and hopes." Smart brands know not to initially focus on what they have to sell but rather on how it meets consumers' needs. If you can address a strong consumer need, you will get those consumers to act. If you can get them to act, then you have opened an all-important channel of dialogue.
The fulfillment of consumer needs, however, is not always a linear hierarchic approach as proposed by Maslow and effectively debunked by Forrester analyst James McQuivey in his book Digital Disruption. Human needs take place simultaneously and are fuelled by a mix of short- and long-term motivations — some conscious and some unconscious. As a student, I would sometimes forgo food on a Friday so I could afford to go to a concert that night; or consider a Spanish couple postponing the short-term comfort of a much-needed upgrade to their central heating so they can put their child through the next year of college.
The pyramid diagram below shows how the foundation of this needs-based thinking is built from the ground up, from customer descriptions through to the technology and KPIs applied.
It's now a year later and a lot has happened. Digital Disruption will soon be available as a hardback book (also as an eBook, natch). You can pre-order a copy now at Forr.com/DDbook. To complete the book I had to get far outside of my comfort zone -- I work with media companies and consumer product companies primarily, but to prove that digital disruption is a fundamental change in the way we all do business, I had to interview people in the pharmaceutical industry, the military camouflage industry, and I even recently spoke to the CIO of a cement manufacturer! And to my pleasant surprise, they were every bit as digitally disruptive as their counterparts in the consumer-facing enterprises that we think of when we imagine digital disruption.
One of the main reasons every company can be and eventually must be a digital disruptor is the rise of digital platforms. These platforms are founded on a set of devices, wrapped together with software experiences that identify each customer individually, and are open to app contributions from thousands of partners. The platform owners that matter today are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.
Technology Vendors for IT Focus on IT Spend
Forrester's technology vendor clients prefer data over analysis, whereas our IT clients prefer analysis. The vendors are gracious and will sit through a few slides of customer problem examples and politely let me wax on about where their real opportunities are, but most only really perk up when I get to the data slides. Having been responsible for product strategy for software product lines myself, I understand precisely why this is the case: When you're in middle management, your ability to get oxygen (read: funding) to sustain your team depends on your ability to make a case, and the case is usually predicated on IT spend.
Their Strategies are Often Tied to the IT Buyer Data so They Miss the Underlying Human Factors
Why? Because the garden variety general manager in the technology business understands numbers. Human factors? Not so much. For many of them, understanding the underlying human reasons for a disruptive technology shift like, say, the rise of Apple, is not in their DNA. Only the numbers matter. It's tragic really, because if they could reflect on the human factors that I bring with the analysis, born from observation of hundreds of firms who are not yet their customer, their investment priorities would be clearer because significant unmet market needs and competitive risks would be obvious. The best possible question a vendor can ask: What are we missing?
Vendor Strategists Need to Combine Market Data with Human Factors
We talk to product strategists in a wide variety of industries. Regardless of the vertical industry of their companies, they tell us that the release of new, disruptive products -- like Apple's iPad -- changes their relationships with their customers. Oftentimes, nearly overnight.
Whether their product comes in the form of “bits” (content, like media, software, or games) or “atoms” (physical products, like shoes, consumer packaged goods, or hardware), consumer product strategists must navigate a world filled with a dizzying array of new devices (like mobile phones, tablet computers, connected TVs, game consoles, eBook readers, and of course PCs). We call this proliferation of devices the Splinternet, a world in which consumers access the digital world across a diverse and growing number of hardware and platforms. And product strategists have to react by developing new apps, by crafting digital product experiences, and by rethinking their product marketing.
Delivering digital products across the Splinternet isn’t easy: It requires understanding -- and acting upon -- an ever-changing landscape of consumer preferences and behaviors. It also requires reapportioning scarce resources -- for example, from web development to iPad or Android development. Yet product strategists who fail to contend with newly disruptive devices (like the iPad or Xbox Kinect) will find themselves in danger of being left behind -- no matter what industry they’re in.
We'd like to invite product strategists to take our super-quick, two-minute survey to help us better understand how you are reacting to disruptions caused by the Splinternet: