A Very Touchy Subject (part 2)

I must assume some of you at first blush wondered why in the world I would even touch upon such a topic. It’s a fair question.

The reason is more times than not we believe one thing is driving a market. Yet, we find the actual drivers aren’t anything we first considered. Remember when a cellphone was the newest and greatest device known to man before it was replaced with a smart phone?

Think back to all those great features we enjoyed while continually adding more at a near breathtaking pace. You, me, and a lot of others believed those updates or added features were caused by our demand or, our ability to influence the market of cellphones. After all it’s all about us. Right? Wrong…

Back in the days of olde at around the late 90’s early 2000’s (to some that’s equivalent to the time of Gutenberg) cellphone models were constantly updated, improved, and at a far more breakneck pace and offerings than iPhone® is accused of today.

However, all those features, models, or updates were not caused by what most thought. (namely ourselves) The market was dominated by the demands of Japanese teenage girls. (Here’s an older article to give some context.)

That’s correct. As you were using the modern phenom of business efficiency with all it’s great models, features and more. The primary reason why it was equipped with, had a certain look or feel, and it’s user interface was set up by the direct influence from this market demographic . They were the drivers – not us. (us being a relative term)

Consequently if they didn’t need or want a certain feature. We weren’t getting it. Regardless if we needed or wanted it. Again, they were the market – not us.

As we all know teenagers are all about style, fads, coolness, what-ever. Although, what they were all about to the cellphone industry at the time was – Dollars and Cents.

If Ma, Dad, Mr. or Mrs. Business buy only 1 cellphone every year or so, you are not even considered market worthy when compared to a teenager with teenage angst. Especially if that angst compels them to want (and buy) the latest model to be in the “me too” club. Never mind how many they’ll need to buy just to replace the lost or damaged ones. (Adults treat these items like they cost money. Need I say more?)

Changes in business today not only spin on a dime but, it can change for reasons we believe we know (or think we do) and in hindsight can be shown more often than not we were completely unaware of the true reasons or impact of the drivers.

Ponder this for a moment: If the business world dominates what technology or platform we will use – especially for business. Why then did a product like Apple’s iPhone® not only take the mass market by storm – it basically made the only dominant player Blackberry® (who?) irrelevant?
iPhone was laughed at by the business world as being an enterprise player. Today, it’s the other way around.

All this market shift, change of platforms, change of leaders, change of everything we have come to know as the “world of a cellphone” happened in less than 5 years. iPhone was first released in June 2007. Most never seen or had one till frankly quite later. Now, frankly they don’t know a world without it. I say again – 5 years!

Now, even though the above resembles change at the speed of light let’s put into perspective this change when we remember a very important, and critical factor:  You need to actually go out (or order online) an actual phone.

How much faster with the possibly of far more impact can happen when you take the critical element of needing an actual physical product to foster such change? That’s an important question that you might want to re-read.

Newspapers laughed when CareerBuilder® or Monster® started vying for job postings. After all (they told themselves) who’s going to look on-line for a job in their own backyard? And regardless they’re about selling news. Besides, they always have the classified ads. What are people going to do, sell their belongings online?

Yep, and you can now buy “like new” printing presses cheap on Ebay® I’m told. (I don’t think they’re selling all that well – there seems to be no demand.)

Just how fast did you change from looking up a number or address in something called “The Yellow Pages®?” Can you even remember when you no longer even looked?  You just Google® it now don’t you?

Do you even keep those books they leave on your doorstep any longer? Or do they go directly to the recycle bin? For most it’s the latter. Again, that is decades of business practice and more – gone!

How about a few more? DVD’s, VCR’s, CD’s, all now – irrelevant.

I could go on however, there is a common thread here. All of these were as I said earlier – an actual physical product.

All this change – all this disruption – all at break neck speed – all changed, and took place by what seemed like very minor disruptions to dominant leaders at first. Yet, was exactly what led to their demise.

For some their demise revolved around their contention that the affected portion was only a small part of their business model. Only to find out it wasn’t “small.” It was their business model.

Newspapers, books, and others fall into this category. For others it’s “This is the best technology has to offer because that’s what we think.” Only to find out things like getting rid of the keyboard and replacing it with a screen – or getting rid of disk altogether and streaming was the better technology.

And even if it isn’t. It doesn’t matter. If that’s what the customer now wants and buys. That’s the best. Period.

Recovery for most is near futile once it takes place. Which make it all the more important to be alert for these seemingly subtle changes in the first place. Because the end result can be anything but subtle.

I’ll finish this up with one more column forthcoming.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr