Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver – Part 3

by Dina on April 11, 2010 · 4 comments

in Market Insights

Fantastic post from Manu Prasad that broadens the discussion on Durability and takes it forward in new directions.

Brand equity is something that falls naturally into the scope of this discussion. But what i was more interested in its impact on the content that brands create, including their communication. Look at say, print ads, whose physical durability is perhaps one day (equity created might probably last longer), or radio jingles and television commercials., with a slightly larger shelf life. On the internet, it can exist ‘forever’. But there are costs involved in all of these, and in terms of durability, they might not really deliver in this era of content abundance, fleeting attention spans, and the constant search for the next ‘wow’. Also, on a smaller scale, what happens when you design say, applications for a particular platform/device like a Facebook/ iPad, and it doesn’t prove to be durable? It is many ways. a gamble.

This raises more thoughts in my mind – is the ‘durability’ of your product dependent on the durability of another … esp. in the era of software and apps?  Classic example as it’s unfolding right now – developers of Twitter applications are really uneasy, and are questioning whether its time to drop the Twit, Tweet etc from your app name? . David Beckemeyer shares what’s happening and his concerns:

There has been a storm of sorts this past week surrounding Twitter, their developers, and the “ecosystem”.  It started with some comments from VC Fred Wilson followed by comments from Twitter CEO Ev Williams in a New York Times interview, and culminating in Twitter buying Atebits and thereby creating an official iPhone app: Tweetie. This has, of course, created quite a stir in the Twitter development community, with accusations that Twitter is “eating their young” and pushing third-party developers out of the market. These recent events have really brought home for developers the risk that when building on top of someone else’s platform, they could decide to compete with you head-on.

Manu then goes on to draw a parallel with Clay Shirky’s recent post:

So, when I read Clay Shirky’s amazing post ‘The collapse of complex business models‘, I sensed a tangential connection. To broadly summarise, the post uses Joseph Tainter’s ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’, in the context of TV content producers’ inability to cut expenses below revenues, and explains how at some point, the level of complexity added to a system fails to add to the output, and becomes just a cost, because the different levels extract more value than the total output. Also, by this time, the system is too large and too interlocked for it to adapt quickly and change. Then ‘collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.’

The post throws on what is most likely the ‘tripping point’ for contemporary media. With increased connectivity between individuals thanks to various platforms, more ideas are being formed and honed. As new products and services arise, consumption patterns change, new needs are discovered and a disruption (which is perhaps another way of  describing simplification) always seems around the corner. I see this as a message to brands, many of whom have evolved their organisations, products and services on the basis of older ways of communication.

Products are not being pushed out anymore in classical modes of marketing or communication. Al Ries and Jack Trout’s notion of Positioning – of how the product rests in the minds of consumers seems incomplete too in today’s context. (You can read their book here). Today products need to breathe and live a relationship with users. It’s not enough to tell them or make sure your brand imprints rest in their minds – its also about creating enduring sustainable relationships. Intrinsic in this thought is the notion of agility and flexibility – because “consumers” aren’t static, nor are their relationships!

Manu ends with the thought:

How much has durability of products been a factor in the design and structure of communication and organisational processes? Or was it a result?  As durability ceases to be a major factor, is the new imperative flexibility?

More than durability ‘dying’ … its perhaps about how its morphing! Manu’s post, Sameer Patel’s The Transition to Durable Relationships and all the comments at my previous blog posts on the topic, are all different dimensions and directions.

The series – Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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1 Anil April 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Interesting thought. My two cents for whatever it is worth.

Durability of value is a constant, always, and in any form. And value will remain durable while its utility is current. Utility in turn is driven by need.

A product will either cater to a need, or ‘create’ a need. Where it ‘creates’ a need so to speak, chances are its durability, and hence the durability of the communication driving acceptance of the product is subject to the next big thing, or the next different thing.

The durability of a market need is independent of the durability of a product that services the need at any given point in time.

And should brand equity, as in communication or content, leverage the need (consumer or otherwise) as opposed to merely leveraging product attributes servicing the need, chances are the brand equity will continue to be durable, even on the Internet.

Utility drives durability.

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