Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“To the Pain” a duel between Conformity and Innovation

I know that I completely aged myself with this title, but I’m coming to grips with my age and let’s just be serious for a moment. Princess Bride is one of THE best movies ever.
Yet, I felt this moment of pop culture treasure is a perfect example of what’s happening as innovation and the knowledge economy continues to grow. Conformity as a way of life that will lose each appendage and each limb, the sense of sight and smell to only be left with the ability to hear the shrieks of babes who cry out in fear and millennials plea, “Dear God, what is that?!?”
I could be feeling a little ostentatious as I finished reading a great book last night, called the “Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau, (a must read for those who prefer to live life by defining your own happiness) but I prefer to believe it’s the truth.  The days of everything being the a ‘certain way’ are as the young kids say it. PLAYED. (first disclaimer: played is urban terminology of what young kids said when I was one, it could be retired and grazing in a hip-hop field by now)
While there are a few strong brands who are fighting tooth and nail to keep their business models intact and hope that technology gives them enough time to beta test everything, there are the leading brands who are counting on things changing and they are allowing their customers to drive while they’re in the passenger seat picking out tunes.  
One of my favorite examples is Nintendo.  The brand saw sales decline as Microsoft launched XBOX in 2001 and uncovered an opportunity to be different than other video game consoles and make thing simpler for the non-gamer.  (second disclaimer, I’m not an XBOX fan)  In 2006, the company launched the Wii hardware console and intuitive two button handheld controller. By 2007, sales of the console had more than quadrupled! To seal the deal, the company re-introduced the “retro” versions of many of their 80’s game (software) to give us Gen Xers something to do once the kiddos went to sleep.
This is an example where innovation and insight has to be more than words, we’ll need people (researchers, product managers, engineers, scientists) to ask, why do we have to keep doing this this way? 
Conformity is such a gamble when it comes to marketing, because in most instances your customers are only going to be okay with status quo as long as nothing else disrupts the category. Which we know is only a matter of time. So the real question is, who’s going to draw their sword first. You or your competitors?

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