Brands fall into the "speeds and feeds trap" when they can not help but focus on themselves at the expense of the bigger picture of how their product specifically changes users' lives. This seemingly nuanced shift in perspective – and the brand's point of view – spells the difference between commoditization and cultural relevance.
Want an example? In 2011, Microsoft launched Lync, their United Communications platform, and brought together presence, chat, voice and video in one seamless interface. The company spies on the simplicity, speed and ability of the teams to collaborate. The real challenge for them was to teach knowledge workers a new way of doing what they had always done ̵
But something happened in the midst of all this planning and traditional marketing that was worth the effort to discover: organizations were moving faster than IT departments and their carefully planned training plans. People started using Unified Communications in organic ways that were never fully understood by the product groups. Users did not just get together as they used to, and curl up around a conference gathering of starfish in the boardroom – they communicated one-on-one, faster, with less formality. They did not need meetings when questions could be answered via chat in seconds and colleagues half the world away could weigh in without scheduling a conversation. Status updates were seamless and non-linear.
In short, users did things differently using tools that were originally used to be used in the same way that tools had always been used.
I became involved in all this consulting firm for Jabra, the endpoint manufacturer headquartered in Copenhagen, where we created a program and a means to take advantage of this greater idea by using our own products – headsets, which suddenly became critical in a unified world of communication – and created a unique point of view on why this brand that was somewhat obscure to American audiences had a place in this complex and rapidly evolving ecosystem. So while Lync evolved in nature, we took advantage of the same rapid evolutionary cycle, placing headsets not as "accessories" – something that would communicate them – but as critical components, without which the entire investment would be in danger of collapsing. "Units create experiences," we said. The devices – Jabra's headsets, in other words – created a unique and different experience for users compared to traditional means of communication such as handsets.
It took Covid-19 to push telecommuting to full mainstream adoption a full nine years later. But the "Devices Make Experience Sciences" program, which redesigns headphones in the ecosystem, placed a solid eight-shifter of incremental revenue on the brand's top line.
And here lies the great, enormous opportunity for brands everywhere.
It is entirely possible that your product or service has the potential to truly change users' lives for the better. Harping about the technical specifications – the speeds and the feeds – may be actual correct and honest and ethical, but you miss the bigger picture that hits the bullseye for your users' perceptions and helps you go mainstream in the culture (without the help of a global pandemic) .
Culture tells you what is relevant. So listen carefully. Listen to the stories of your customers. Do the qualitative research, the ethnography, the deep listening that is necessary to find out how the most interesting and involved users use your product. Amplify these voices. Most importantly, distill these stories into something scalable and vibrant.
Discover – and then formulate – how to use culture.
Your beautiful solution changes lives because it crosses where culture goes. From micro-trends like "Work From Home" and Covid-19 to macro-trends like "seeking control in a world without control", and making the connection between what you do and where the world is headed, not only helps you connect the dots to audience, but repeats where your product should go.
The biggest hurdle performers are likely to encounter when taking this path is that they will jump to the end of the rainbow at once and say credit cards will give users "freedom" and "joy", or that your productivity unit embodies "the work of the future". " Predictably, this type of hyperbola washes over us all the time, so we ignore it. A "only noticeable difference" is when your metaphorical boat is still not in sight of the country, barely. It can still be recognized from a distance. But it's pretty deep there – and things are different out there. In our case, the headset was not "the future!" – they were a critical component that made this new and exciting ecosystem work. And this made all the difference. They were not "french fries with that burger", but the o-ring for that space shuttle.
You live with your products and have occupied their functions since they were little more than ideas in a shared document. But that does not mean that you can not connect it to ideas that are far greater than the narrow framework of the product category.