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.
I'll be first to agree that "disruption" is an overused word. I hear it all the time -- companies pitching me their new business idea describe how they're going to disrupt this or disrupt that. And here at CES 2013, I see and hear the word disruption everywhere I turn. Sometimes these companies really mean disruption. But often, they just mean that they're going to use technology to compete aggressively. Instead of simply saying "compete," they invoke the moral authority of Clayton Christensen and say they intend to "disrupt" the rest of the competitive field.
My concern with the overuse of the word disruption is not just that it waters down the power of the ideas behind disruption. It's that a muddy understanding of disruption will stop us from comprehending just how powerful digital disruption will be. Because the addition of digital to the word disruption does not merely enhance it, it accelerates it, making digital disruption orders of magnitude more powerful, a case I made in late 2011 and a case that has only strengthened since.
All through the past decade, observers in industry and on Wall Street have offered reasons to discount Netflix’s efforts. Supposed obstacles ranged from Blockbuster to scant streaming options to recent rate hikes on DVD renters. When will these people ever learn? We understand why people cheer against disruptive players like Netflix — it would be nice if we could pretend all these digital disruptions will go away. But they won’t, and neither will Netflix. We’ve written about this in our latest report that people who keep an eye on content strategy will find valuable (see our newest report on Netflix).
But it’s not really written for them – it’s written for people who take an even bigger view, as do we. These people – today’s product strategists – know that Netflix is a powerful example of disruptive digital product strategy and are eager to learn how to act like Netflix in their own context and industry. In our report, we extract three specific lessons from Netflix:
Control the product experience. The company that controls the user’s total product experience will win, whether retailer, producer, distributor, or platform. That company will have ultimate control over what options people have, what prices they pay, and what value they believe they are getting. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that people charged with product strategy must be willing to accept. Makers of products as wide-ranging as sleeping pills, running shoes, and auto insurance should all follow Netflix’s lead and control the total product experience they deliver.