Exploring the Boundaries Of The Traditional Concept

Quick Read: The idea of Traditional Concept and its reliance on metrics like Purchase Intent for validating product ideas is being challenged. More so in the realm of Retro Innovations.  

The Traditional Concept and its classic three part construct – Insight | Benefit | Reason To Believe – to represent a product idea for consumer research has been coming under scrutiny. In fact, there are even obituaries being written about it citing reasons like:

  • It is too rigid, rational and over – engineered as a construct to represent a product idea
  • Puts far more emphasis on our deliberative ‘System 2’ thinking
  • Fails to take into account how consumers tend to make decisions (unconsciously, quickly, swayed far more by emotional impact and immediate impressions)
  • Relies heavily on metrics like purchase intent for validation

Academic arguments apart, one thing that a Traditional Concept cannot possibly help with is screening product ideas that fall into the realm of Retro Innovations – new products that are designed around connecting us with the past and invoking our nostalgia.

Two recent product examples where a traditional concept could have had a tough time cracking the consumer code:

The ‘Miller Light’ Retro Design And Its Placebo Effect

Miller Lite is known as the first mainstream light beer in the US. But over the years, the U.S. sales of the beer had been declining, trailing Bud Light, Coors Light, and Budweiser. Revenue dropped 7 percent in just 2013 (source). So in January 2014, as part of a product placement tie in with the film Anchorman 2, Miller released a limited edition version  of its original 1975 white can.

bottle(The Retro Designed Miller Lite Can)

Surprisingly for Miller Lite, this retro designed packaging proved to be a success (it sold 32 million cans more than that during YTD 2013) that by September 2014 it decided to switch back to this packaging full-time, including on bottles and tap handles.

And reportedly, taken by surprise, when Miller marketers conducted some post launch evaluation, they learnt that the Millennials had liked it because it seemed iconic and old while their parents had liked it because it reminded them of what they used to drink. Strangely, customers even started telling the company its “new” beer tasted better even though they were still drinking the same old beer(!)

Obviously, a Traditional Concept and conventional testing for metrics like Purchase Intent, could not have driven the brand along this unexpected ‘retro’ direction.

Leica M Edition 60 – The Digital Camera Without An LCD Screen

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the legendary Leica rangefinder system, the company recently announced the Leica M Edition 60. The unique thing about this camera is that it does something bold – it ditches the back LCD screen and all onboard menus. One cannot even review their photos. It leaves photographers with physical controls of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. And it forces them to look through just one thing – the viewfinder.

Is this a good idea? Will consumers like it? Does it even make design sense? The debate is on.

But one thing is certain:  this reductionism as a celebration of photographic art – as Leica calls it – could not have been conceived of through the lens of the Traditional Concept and testing for Purchase Intent.

Is the Leica M Edition 60 too high end to be a realistic example here?

Well, then let’s get a bit ‘low end’ – Music CDs and online music.

Let’s think of product ideas in terms of Traditional Concepts and test for their Purchase Intent to sell online music to the Japanese vs the good old CDs. 

And good luck to us doing that!

JAPAN-MUSIC-01-master675(AKB48, a popular Japanese group, has sold CDs containing tickets to its performances, encouraging fans to buy multiple copies. Source)

(Featured Image: The New Leica M Edition 60)

Experiments in Branding – Of Buskers and Bud

CDZA is a NYC based band that creates musical video experiments.

Short for “Collective Cadenza”, the group is composed of 3 key members – a ‘video guy’, an ‘audio guy’ and a ‘music guy’ who get together and weave concepts that intertwine musical genius with slapstick comedy. Result: kick ass viral marketing savvy! Every other Tuesday, the band uploads a unique musical – ‘An Opus’, that almost instantly goes super viral, gets shared phenomenally and gets talked about in blogs and pop media alike.

What keeps CDZA interesting is that no two videos have been of the same kind to date. Each performance has been a unique experiment in creativity and musical craftsmanship infused with a liberal dash of humor. (eg: NYC Phoneharmonic – A wondrous orchestral medley of the iconic ringtones belonging to cell phone companies, History of Lyrics that aren’t lyrics – that takes us through 46 years of musical history through 20 songs with no lyrics!, Zuckerberg – the Musical etc)

Their latest performance – The Human Jukebox, Opus No. 9 –  was an experiment that stood out to me for a very interesting reason: the idea of giving ‘power’ to the consumer and watch them bask in sheer delight. See their performance here:

While I salute the sheer musical genius of the artists, what appeals to me in this experiment is what it successfully brings to life –  an enterprise that enables customers to have a degree of influence over the outcome. Result: consumers themselves become the owners of the experience!

The story can only go oneway in such circumstance – consumer delight and advocacy – every marketer’s wet dream. Let’s see another example.

Every Beer brand loves to own the Happy Hour. But how do you do it? Especially when you are a new entrant in a market with the incumbent being present for over a 100 years? Recently, Budweiser saw itself in this position in Ecuador. So what did it do? It installed a Budclock: 

This ‘ambient execution’ brilliantly brought to life the idea of “Happy hours never end with a Bud”, while empowering its consumers to stretch the Happy Hours by over 6000 minutes and thereby touched more than 50,000 people (and counting) with a phenomenal increase in sales. (source)

What again stood out for me here was the sheer delight – that ‘aha’ moment – a consumer is gifted with, each time they realize that they are able to add another minute to the Happy Hour. Result: The consumer owns the Happy Hour (not the pub). Thanks to Bud!

In each of these examples, what stands out is the magic that unfolds when the consumer realizes that she has a degree of influence over the outcome. As a result, she almost begins to own the (branded) experience and once that happens the story can only have one ending – Consumer Delight and Brand Advocacy.  

Do you know of any other examples that brings this to life?