In a recent column I looked at ways in which successful companies create infatuating products.
What is the strategic common denominator among companies that successfully extend infatuation? What do all these companies share?
I have a two-word answer: lifestyle enrichment.
These companies all understand that they are not in the business of making a specific product or providing a certain service, but rather they offer something much more encompassing, much more fundamental: they are in the business of enriching people’s lives.
They are in the business of making people’s lives more fun, more thrilling, more simple, more comfortable, more liberating, more safe, more meaningful, more efficient, and more harmonious. This seemingly small shift in strategic thinking is huge. It allows companies to infatuate large groups of consumers and to do so continuously.
Don’t be limited in looking to your current consumers as the source of new lifestyle-enriching ideas. When consulted, most consumers respond based on what they already have rather than expressing desires for things that don’t yet exist. Instead, you need to observe how both consumers and nonconsumers live, work, and play and anticipate their latent needs and desires.
As Steve Jobs puts it: “It’s hard for users to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.” Or consider Denys Lasdun, a leading twentieth-century English architect, who observed that the architect’s job is to give a client “not what he wants but what he never dreamed that he wanted; and when he gets it, he recognizes it as something he wanted all the time.”
Amazon.com is a company that embodies these perspectives. It has soared in annual revenues from $4 billion in 2002 to nearly $20 billion in 2008. Here is a glimpse at the corporate philosophy that fuels this growth: “If you want to continuously revitalize the service that you offer to your customers, you cannot stop at what you are good at,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Business Week. “You have to ask what your customers need and want, and then, no matter how hard it is, you better get good at those things.”
First, it was selling new books online, then the company expanded to provide a marketplace for used books, then all kinds of consumer goods, and in 2007 Amazon jumped from the services platform to a product-service hybrid with its Kindle ebook reader. Along the way Amazon has been transforming the very essence of the book industry as well as its own business in pursuit of the most broadly relevant consumer offerings and lifestyle enrichment. Very infatuating, indeed!
Gabor George Burt is an internationally recognized expert on innovation, creativity and strategy development. His spheres of expertise help organizations to overstep perceived limitations and to carve out successful growth strategies. Share the excitement surrounding Gabor’s upcoming book Slingshot at www.slingshotliving.com or on Twitter (@slingshotliving ).