A while ago, a Client who is working on a project where she wanted evidence that durability is losing its power as a consumer driver in some product categories in India. Durability was always It’s a tricky question really, as there are multiple India’s and each of them displays different drivers when purchasing and adopting products. However, for the most part, my feeling is that while it may still hold importance for some categories, it’s seen as a given – a hygiene-factor almost, that users expect from their products. Research I’ve done in the last few years indicates that neither a brand differentiator nor a purchase driver, as it was even just 7-8 years ago. I thought I’d share some of my notes here – with some great inputs from Manu:
- A good example is the phasing out of the Bajaj scooter which has been one of the strongest icons for durability through the routes of unity, familial and community bonds, across different regions in India. Interestingly, “its durability was also one of the best available and there was a notion that any problem would be solved by tilting the vehicle sideways. A popular joke – “The Indian rocket did not fire. What to do? Just tilt it for a second.” – only helped to reinforce the hold of this vehicle on the Indian mind.” They moved away from this positioning to one that said – Distinctly Ahead – and now have finally announced the end of the road for scooters.
- Product review sites look at mouthshut.com – youth hangs out there and reviews products/purchases. Here’s an example for advice on a dream bike – no mention of durability!
- Think of China phones – they are not seen as durable, but growing as a segment – look at the Karbonn advertising at the IPL – evidence enough?
- In a study on brand choice for apparels, durability isn’t really mentioned anywhere. Similarly, you see the change in advertising for mass-brand shoes moving away moving away from durability plank into more young contemporary brand expressions.
- A slightly outdated and tangential but interesting take on how technological advancements are changing people’s wants and desires from products and services in this article called The Good Enough Revolution in Wired. ”So what happened? Well, in short, technology happened. The world has sped up, become more connected and a whole lot busier. As a result, what consumers want from the products and services they buy is fundamentally changing. We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they’re actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as “high-quality.”
- What about the age of pirated CDs and DVDs – they’re not durable – but quick releases, timely, fun etc.
- Thinking thru current Ads on tv – only the infrastructure and paints guys seem to talk about Durability in their communication today.
- Would also connect with the real time nature of things now – people aren’t looking for durability because trends change, and they don’t want to be saddled with something they can’t throw away because they’ve paid too much for it. It’s the age of twitter and facebook updates – once they’re off the front page, they’re forgotten
- An XLRI student study on brand choice – durability – naaah! And a presentation from the Dean at XLRI too.
- Another study – see Point 3.2 Durability on page 3 [pdf]- “Thirty four percent of the people consider durability to be a little important, six percent said it wasn’t important at all and twenty four percent consider durability to be an important factor. This indicates that when the shopper makes a decision to buy such a product, he/she does consider the product’s durability but does not attribute it with much power.”
Goutam Jain replied to my question on LinkedIn with these observations:
“Youth today upgrade faster than before, hence durability is not important. Some are glad when something breaks as they get a chance to upgrade. Technology/fashion changes prompt users to upgrade rendering ‘durability’ meaningless. Even items such as furniture which people usually expected to be durable or last many years now expect or change every few years. We are becoming a fast consumption society, recyclable items are abound, when something is going to be either used and recycled quickly or upgraded, durability isn’t a proposition I would buy into. Products today are looked upon as ‘toys’ – we use & and throw them like impatient children (even cars which the older generation used to purchase after saving a lot are used and sold in a few years for a better car.). Branded items outscoring over unbranded, six sigma/ISO processes, do we even question the durability of branded products today when we buy them? Isn’t this a given!”
Goutam also asks – are you just referring to ‘durability’ (strong and lasts a long time) or durability as a dimension of brand equity? It’s a good question too – perhaps as a feature to speak of its losing its relevance, but it will endure in many categories as an intrinsic brand value. However, it won’t be the differentiator any more in most cases, with a few exceptions like paints, construction materials etc
Stuart adds to the discussion by moving from durability to efficiency ….
“My top of mine thought was – we are moving from a world of durability to efficacy. We see this in examples from working hard to working smart. When I think durability I think of Maytag – the washing machines that go forever here. Yet today that “durable” isn’t expected to last 20 years and new features, energy efficiency etc are changing the definition. Contrast Efficacy! Years ago I worked on deodorants. At the time stick deodorants were mostly about “fragrance” and AP’s were just getting launched. It became a category that was about efficacy – 24 hour protection. No stain etc. People cared more about the protection than the fragrance. (There are some cultural differences globally of course!)
Does it work for mobile? “durability” is no longer broad enough. Increasingly it is about efficacy… yes it better not break on the job, the battery better last, and the shift to smarter phones is keeping me working in real-time, or entertained, manages my calendar, wakes me up. Eg the phone’s features are broadening my perceptions of the uses it’s put to.
IMHO efficacy is better as a term in combining the ideas of hardware and software. Efficacy is not a word you can promote to users, however it may be an important internal distinction where I imagine “durability” traces to and is defined as something tangible.
An extension might be… we expect durability and now we also expect it to be recyclable. The durable recyclable product is more efficacious. I suspect that “software” and “updates” are an even more important part of the “durability” and how long things are now expected to last. Efficacy as an internal discussion underpinning may broaden the evaluation criteria and increase understanding of the trade-offs.”