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News from International Mgm't Consulting Associates
Mike Wynne's Global Profit Builder
The Innovation Series Number Nine

February 2008

In this issue
-- "The Guy Who Invented the Wheel Was An Idiot..."
-- Technology is not enough
-- The better mousetrap won't do it either
-- Develop a compelling tagline
-- Follow up on Designer Desks USA feedback.
-- Designer Desks USA feedback-based decisions
-- Just a reminder

"The Guy Who Invented the Wheel Was An Idiot..."
In the previous issue of this series on Innovation, I posed the question, "If You Had Invented the Wheel..." It included 25 questions that helped you think as the inventor of the wheel might have; they also were a checklist for innovation. In case you answered those 25 questions, the title of this issue is not a reflection on you. The full quote is as follows: "The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three was a genius." Sid Caesar, comedian.

Technology is not enough
The point of the quote is well taken; technology by itself does not change the world, it is the application of the technology that brings about true change. Further, it is not the company with the best technology that always wins, but the one that applies it best. Unfortunately, nowadays applying it the best may still not be enough.

The better mousetrap won't do it either
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." The great thinker of the 19th Century was brilliant, but he blew this one, perhaps because marketing was not his thing. Building a better mousetrap won't do the trick if the world doesn't find out about it. If the world doesn't hear, see, and try it, you can be sure the "better mousetrap" will become the world's best kept secret. People don't buy products and services they know nothing about, which brings us to the message of this issue:

You can't be tentative. Make a lot of noise, generate a lot of buzz, toot your own horn, beat your own drum - whatever clichˆ© you prefer - but get it out there!!!

Traditional "Business Common Sense" would probably advise that you hold off on promoting something that is still not "market proven." But "Business Common Sense" doesn't always make sense. In fact, it probably has killed more inventions and innovations than it has launched successfully. Yes, the innovation could fail, or be faulty, but innovation is about Trial and Error, and Fixing, and Trying Again, and Again, Until You Get It Right!

Develop a compelling tagline
Best-selling marketing book Blue Ocean Strategy emphasizes the importance of developing a compelling tagline as a key element of promoting innovation. It suggests, for example that the tagline of Southwest Airlines could be "The speed of a plane at the price of a car - whenever you need it." It seems too long to me, and not catchy enough.

Developing that compelling taglines is no mean task. Very few companies have been successful at this endeavor. Most taglines are bland; many seem not to have any relation with the product or the company. Take a look at some of the following:

  • "Image Anywhere" Can you guess the name of the company? Canon.
  • How about "Better Sound Through Research." The company, Bose.
  • "Bank of Opportunity." I would never have guessed Bank of America.
  • "Enjoy Your Flight." Pick any airline, but it's actually from Aerlingus.
  • Here's one that's hard to believe, "Beyond Petroleum." British Petroleum.
  • "The Possibilities Are Infinite." Any guess? Fujitsu.
  • The next one sounds like a prosecutor's tagline: "A Promise For Life." Actually, it belongs to Abbott.

Now let's take a look at some taglines that come closer to the companies and products they represent:

  • "Good to the last drop." You guessed it - Maxwell House coffee.
  • "Have it your way." Burger King's, and still one of the best taglines.
  • "The Ultimate Driving Experience." BMW, of course.
  • "For the Sleep you dream about." Tempur-Pedic mattresses.
  • "Think Green." Waste Management; makes sense.

According to the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, good strategy must have a clear and compelling tagline, and advertise the offering truly. As you can see, however, coming up with one isn't easy. As usual, the best place to start is with the customers; what do they value the most that no one yet offers them? Find that, and put it together with some catchy words and you will have a good tagline. By the way, taglines don't last forever; when was the last time you flew on United and felt you were "Flying the Friendly Skies?"

Follow up on Designer Desks USA feedback.
First, here's the feedback:

Ten different types of customers provided interesting and insightful feedback.

  • Younger Customers: "Cool! Does it come in different colors?"
  • Small Business Owners: "Too gimmicky, and too expensive."
  • Home-Based Business Owners With Little Office Space: "Perfect for what I need, but can you add a couple of shallow drawers and or shelves just below the desk top."
  • Older Customers: "More of a gadget than a desk. I prefer wooden desks."
  • Architects, Engineers, Designers, and Radiologists: "I've been waiting for this all my life. Can you make the desk-top surface out of glass with light from underneath?"
  • Corporate Buyers: "Too expensive for general use, but might be acceptable for certain level executives and specialists."
  • Women Executives: "Good idea, but needs to be more stylish."
  • IT Technicians: "Good, but can you supply some vertical shelving for placing computer accessories?"
  • Military: "We like its flexibility, but would like it to be lighter weight for shipping by air to distant field operations. Can do?"
  • Retailers: "It probably won't be a huge seller, but it definitely will attract some buyers we are currently not getting; besides, it looks high tech, which gets people's attention. Just one thing; can you improve the instructions for assembling the desk? They are not as easy as 1-2-3."

Designer Desks USA feedback-based decisions
  • For the present, eliminate younger customers, small business owners, and older customers from the target list. Reason: lower price market segment.
  • Home-based business owners with little office space, potential niche. Add shallow drawers, emphasize desks as perfect solution to space limitations.
  • Architects, engineers, designers, and radiologists. Offer glass top design as an option, Target this niche labeling product as "designed specifically to meet the high standards and requirements of professionals."
  • Corporate buyers. Target senior executive market with desk as "a sign of distinction and recognition," something that is out of the ordinary drab desk world.
  • Women executives. Focus on growing C-level women executive market segment. Get high level brand name fashion designer to give the desk the right look of elegance and distinction.
  • IT Technicians. Focus on practicality and versatility. Provide a number of space-increasing shelving options. Offer a basic model at a lower price.
  • Military. Unforeseen market, but well worth targeting, Get engineering and manufacturing staff together to find ways to reduce weight and enhance flexibility even more.
  • Retailers. Select from the above mix three different price models for different level buyers. Get team working on instructions; add a CD to the printed instructions.

In view of the interest shown by these eight types of customers, and the need to reach out to potential customers directly, set up an online marketing campaign.

Continue market research to discover - or create - potential variations on this flexibility concept across different types of office furniture.

Just a reminder
In case you may have forgotten why innovation is so vitally important for business success and survival in these a fast changing times, here are some reasons:
  • Commoditization - your products and services are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from those of your competitors. What are you doing to make your products and services different in ways that your customers value?
  • Asia - practically anything you do can be done cheaper by someone in Asia, anything, that is, except innovative concepts and products. What are you doing to make what you do something that can't be outsourced or off-shored?
  • Price competition - any fool can lower his or her prices (and they do, constantly), but only a professional knows how to innovate value that makes price irrelevant. What are you doing to avoid lowering your prices?
  • Abundance - there is so much of everything available today that is good quality and low price that customers are looking for new ideas, concepts, experiences, and innovations. What are you doing to create greater value in your business?
  • Mature markets - there is so much competition that very few markets are truly hot these days. American markets are mostly mature ones where annual growth is in the low single digits. If you want to grow, you'd better innovate your way to competitive growth. What are you doing to grow your business faster than your industry's or profession's rate?
  • Profits - higher opportunities and profits involve higher risks. Innovation is a less risky option than inaction, and it brings much higher profits. What are you doing to improve your profit margins?
  • Automation - automation is eliminating the processes, products, services, and jobs that aren't being outsourced. Anything that is routine, procedural, mechanically quantitative, or just plain simple, will be in danger of elimination due to automation, anything, that is, except innovations. What innovative things are you doing that makes being replaced by automation unlikely?
  • Technology - is rapidly changing the ways we live and work, buy and spend, and even entertain ourselves and others, that innovation is now demanded and expected by our customers. If we want to survive, we'd better begin to innovate. What are you doing to innovate through technology?

If the above questions make you a little uneasy, and you don't quite know how to develop the right kind of innovations for your business, dial (630) 420 2605 and ask for Michael Wynne or e-mail . You will get the help you need to get your innovative streak going.


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