Would you recognize if your product shifted categories?

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Remember the first desktop computers (shut up if you are too young!).  We were amazed at their capacity.  Their speed.  And their ability to change the way we work.

I can still remember saying "who needs a 1 gig hard drive…that’s crazy!"  Now, I wouldn’t buy one that has less than 120.  And that was just a couple years ago. 

When was the last time you marveled at your computer?  Or picked out a new one because it could make a spreadsheet or design a brochure or reach out to people across the globe?

Those functional aspects of the product no longer thrill us.  They’ve become a given.

It seems to me that computers have shifted categories a little.  Sure, they are still a business tool.  But all brands, makes and models are business tools and the reality is, any one of them can probably meet and exceed most people’s needs.

Apple was the first to recognize that computers also say something about us as people and that design matters.  Remember the first iMacs with their crazy colors?  People were taken aback.  The color of the computer does not change its functionality at all.

But it does change what your computer says about you.  A hot pink computer?  That connotes something about the owner, eh?

Dell has announced that they’re jumping on that boat.  Today, they launch their new Inspiron notebook series in 8 vibrant colors, including midnight blue, spring green and jet black.   

In a very Apple-like move, the product launch will occur in the Macy’s department store in Manhattan’s Herald Square.

What makes this fascinating isn’t the colored computers.  What makes this discussion-worthy is the recognition that companies, brands and products shift over time. Think about your business.  What used to make people ohhh and ahhh but now has become a given?

What’s your new ohhh and ahhh?  Or are you still hyping the given as though it gives your customers the same tingles it used to?

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14 comments on “Would you recognize if your product shifted categories?

  1. The need for soft innovations (changing colors, design, additional features, etc.) continues to be paramount. People get used to the same old same old. There are plenty of ways to spice things up a little, and they usually don’t cost very much.

    The beauty of business is that tiny changes can make an enormous difference. It’s important to stay interesting and never get comfortable. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, it’s probably too late.

    I hope that wasn’t too redundant… 🙂

  2. Good thoughts, Drew. This reminds me of Seth Godin’s words about being “remarkable.” A 500 GB hard drive is no longer remarkable. A midnight blue laptop is.

  3. Bill Gammell says:

    Drew,

    Very interesting insights. Branding is a journey, not a destination. The moment you think you have “arrived” is the moment you start accepting the status quo, which is only a hop, skip and a jump away from being “good enough” and becoming invisible. So could it be said that if you are not advancing in terms of innovation and the customer experience, that you are actually being crushed under the feet of those that are moving forward?

  4. Drew,
    I’m constantly amazed by how similarly you and I think. So many times over the past few weeks, I’ve stopped by your blog and you’ve written about topics I’ve been thinking about. Today, we’re really in synch. I just covered the same topic (although in a slightly different way) at Brandcurve.com. I swear you can read my mind! It’s eery.

  5. Connie Reece says:

    “A hot pink computer? That connotes something about the owner, eh?”

    Oh, yeah. Hot pink has become part of my personal brand. So it will probably come as no surprise to you that I still lament the death of my 1999 strawberry iMac.

    And of course, I just had to order a Dell Inspiron laptop the week BEFORE they came out in colors. What’s a Glamour Geek to do? 🙂

  6. Chris Cree says:

    Talk about changing technology. When my dad bought the first home computer I saw (within a year of seeing the first Star Wars movie in the theater, by the way) he debated long and hard between the Apple II and the Apple II+.

    Because after all, “64K was a whole lot of memory. Who would possibly ever need that much?”

    Things have definitely changed a bit since then, eh?

  7. Ryan,

    I’m trying to think of a single example of a business who could just rest on their laurels and not continue to innovate.

    Can you think of one?

    Drew

  8. David,

    Now there’s an interesting way to look at it. Remarkable is a moving target. Staying in one place for too long simply means you were once remarkable.

    Drew

  9. Bill,

    “So could it be said that if you are not advancing in terms of innovation and the customer experience, that you are actually being crushed under the feet of those that are moving forward?”

    Sure, I think you’re right on the money there. I love David’s point about the “new” remarkable. You can’t stay still AND stay remarkable.

    If you don’t keep pushing forward or step aside…you are going to get mowed over by those who are surging to be the new remarkable.

    Drew

  10. Susan,

    I am in your head!! And boy have I learned some interesting things… ;-}

    On my way over to BrandCurve to read your version!

    Drew

  11. Connie,

    Well first…you need to switch back to Mac.

    But, baring that…couldn’t you send the old order back once it arrives and order yourself one of those sweet pink jobs?

    Drew

  12. Chris,

    It’s astonishing, isn’t it? It makes me feel like a grandpa when I hear words like that come out of my mouth.

    I can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Drew

  13. Drew,

    How about toilet paper…?

  14. Ryan,

    LOL! Interesting. But…even toilet paper has evolved. Not sure if it has jumped categories.

    But, now its all about the packaging. (Not all that unlike the Dell). Bigger roll, scented or not. Printed pattern or not…

    Not so much about the core compentency of toilet paper anymore.

    Maybe that’s a good thing!

    Drew

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