Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Copy Cats - Copying Can Be Cool

There is an aura about innovation. To be called an innovator is a big ego boost. It creates a superiority complex and there is a rarefied air around the innovator.
On the flip side I wonder how many like being called Copy Cat or Not Original?  Not very cool and certainly not a tag which you would like to have.
But if you look at successful companies and products there are a list of them which have been very very successful.

The dream of many - Apple had copied the Mouse and also the GUI ( Graphical User Interface from Xerox  PARC). Infact PARC did sue Apple but lost out to due some technicalities. The first Apple Macintosh was inspired by the GUI.

The list from Microsoft is huge.  MS Basic copied Tiny Basic. MS DOS copied CPM-86. Windows copied the early Mac OS. Word copied WordPerfect. Excel copied Lotus 1-2-3. Access copied FoxPro. Windows Server copied Novell Netware. Exchange copied Lotus Notes. Internet Explorer copied Netscape Navigator. C# and .net copied Java.

Rumour has to Google copied bits from iOS for its Android.  Not surprised that Jobs was livid with Google especially since Eric Schmidt the erstwhile CEO of Google was on the board of Apple.

It is not that even consumer products have not faced this. Closer home the big daddy- Unilever copied Henkel's Fa in India and called it Liril. The marbled effect, the shape, the colors and the fragrances were copied. Why even the advertising jingle was copied. The success of Liril is the story of lore in India.

Modern trade chains regularly  successfully copy products from established manufacturer brands.

There are a string of products/ molecules copied by pharmaceutical manufacturers which have helped bring down costs and increase distribution

There are examples aplenty of how many brands/ products have been copied of inspired by others.  The key implications are:
  • There is no harm in copying provided IP is not violated.
  • The copier can give a better a product/ value than the original creator.
    •   Microsoft was smart to learn from the mistake of others launch a products with was far more acceptable and then use the leadership (near monopoly) position to ensure that customers adopted the software.
  •  Success does not come from creating a product/ service but reaching and providing value to a customer.
  •   Leverage customer accessibility to increase value to customer
    • Distribution costs especially in the online world is negligible.
    •  Modern trade chains have access to a set of customers and hence can provide products which compete and provide more value to the end consumer.

I, Me, Myself - Personalization Will Drive Businesses of Tomorrow

Couldn't help overhear a conversation between two mothers complaining about their children - " This is generation is so self centered, all they think about is themselves".

We had done a dipstick amongst our customers and asked them what merchandise they wanted in our cafes and many of them asked for personalized products - products which had their name, customized to suit their requirements.

The two examples are very significant of the orientation and inclination of customers across segments. Consumer behavior has changed from buying a product which was made for everybody to a product which made for 'me'. 

Actually the Internet is all about personalised experiences. We get information when we want it, at a time convenient to us and customized to a large extent.

Look at the way Internet products have evolved. First we had the general all encompassing portals like Yahoo; then came the language portals and specialized portals; following it came the messengers and chat; and finally came products which focused on the individual like iGoogle. These products or experiences centred around giving the user, services and information which he/ she wants and not a generalized one. 

Facebook, Twitter etc. are all about communicating one's own thoughts and actions. It is not surprising that these have been a hit with most of world's Internet friendly inhabitants.

Loosely put, even the form factors of Internet access have changed. The smartphones and tablets are manifestations of the personalized behavior. Once upon a time we accessed the net through the large PCs (infact one PC was shared by many) and now we access the net through our phones!

High end hotels & resorts are looking at personalizing your experience at their properties. The loyalty programs have morphed into relationship programs which gathers information on the food you eat, the rooms you like and many other personal preferences. Infact some airlines have also done so for some of their premium class frequent fliers.

Even some iconic brands have got into the act. 

Australia went into a frenzy. Coke was seeing diminishing sales in the youth market. And they personalized Coke! In the first stage 150 different Coca-Cola bottles were released, each with a different name. Using the most popular names in Australia- Matt, Jack, John, Steve, Mary, William, Isabella, and Chloe among others, each name was written boldly on the bottle in the Coke font. And naturally as soon as these bottles reached the shop shelves they were picked up. The second stage involved 18 chosen shopping centers, where you could go to have your name printed. People waited hours to get their 'own' bottle.


Lego went a step ahead. They allowed customers to take a photograph of their choice. Lego would develop a set which will allow everyone to view the same picture built through a customized Lego set of blocks. 
Custom Stamps


Governmental organisations are not far behind. The Japanese postal service took the lead in releasing personalized stamps. Go to the Japan Post's website, and design your very own stamp. Within few minutes you have your own personalized stamp which is legally valid!
Implications
All brands need to adopt techniques and technology in which they will be able to personalize their experiences. Apparel brands will need to offer bespoke services, cars are already being customized (sorry Ford), Food is made - made to order and unique. Examples can be reeled out but the reality is that with the 'I, Me, Myself' generation the uniqueness is 'I, Me, Myself'!

The Age of Distrust and The Age for Trust

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