Archive for August, 2007
The New York Times website posted an interesting article this morning discussing the remarkable innovations in product packaging over the past few years. Due largely to product commoditization, environmental awareness on the parts of both producers and consumers, the rise of the internet and infinite cable channels, and the short attention span of this generation of young people, marketers are being forced to become more and more creative in packaging products.
We all know that the volume of information and amount of advertising vying for our attention everyday is way, way to much to process. The average amount of time a product maintained the same packaging as late as the 1990s was 7 years; 10 years later the average is only 2 years because customers are constantly searching for “what’s new”.
If you are to walk through the aisles of your local grocery store today, you would probably notice that products that have maintained their exterior packaging designs for years and years have suddenly revamped their respective images to become completely different. Unilever’s Suave shampoo bottles recently underwent a transformation for the first time in 25 years, Axe shower gel is now shaped like a video game joystick, and Coors Light cans now employ thermochromatic ink in it labeling so the color of the mountains on the label become blue as the temperature of the can decreases.
Eye Catching Designs On Bottles Of Mountain Dew (excerpted from New York Times Website, photo by Lars Klove)
In the next few years we may see Pepsi cans that emit a blast of pleasant odor or potentially water spray when we open them. But the most disturbing image of creative packaging the article highlighted is computer chips and tiny speakers being implanted into packaging so the product can talk to customers!
That’s right. Apparently some companies are currently experimenting with technologies that will allow companies to cross-promote their products. The article used the example of a customer picking up a block of cheese which is simultaneously saying to the customer, “I go well with Triscuits”. I think I would find this difficult to adapt to. As Tracy Lovatt, director for behavioral planning at BBDO North America, an advertising agency in the Omnicom Group points out, “walking down a row in a supermarket and every package is screaming at you, it sounds like a terrifying, disgusting experience”. I second that!
What does all of this tell us? In the Conceptual Age, we can count on the commoditization of pretty much anything and everything out there. No matter how innovative a product may be, it’s almost a guarantee that someone else will either copy it or improve on it to grab a share of your market. That is why “design” is such a talked about concept these days. It is also the reason behind the Heath Brothers’ (of Made To Stick fame) 105% rule. They believe that any product or experience that is not at least 5% better than the norm is not worth talking about, meaning missing out on the miracles of word-of-mouth marketing. So, this weekend add a little innovation to all of your activities, see how creative you can get. A little exercising the “design” center in your brain is much needed if you plan to enter the world of business today and in the future!
While we are on the topic of “must-reads”, here is the top 5 books for executives according to Todd Sattersten, vice president of 800-CEO-READ:
- “Competitive Strategy” by Michael Porter
- “Execution” by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck
- “In Search Of Excellence” by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman
- “Good To Great” by Jim Collins
- “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker
For some background on the picks, check out the original posting.
I talk about books fairly often on this blog, so it should come as no surprise that I’m an avid reader. In fact I’ve been tinkering around with the “books” application for Facebook for the last 30 minutes. WorldChanging.com published a list of books yesterday that their team of people has deemed “must-reads” over the past couple of years. If you read Moving Into The Conceptual Age and find it at all interesting, check out this link to see what next up on your nightstand!
Back on July 19 I highlighted the amazing work of William Kamkwamba in his small village in Malawi. Unable to afford schooling after age 14, William perservered and created a windmill adapted from a model in a library book that originally powered 4 lightbulbs and 2 radios in his families small hut. Things have developed since then and William spoke at the TED conference in Arusha, Tanzania a couple months back and started a blog. For those interested in this remarkable story, here is the link to the interview.
If you’re a fan of personal productivity/life skills blogs, LifeRemix has formed a network of bloggers/blogs such as Tim Ferriss, Dumb Little Man, Zen Habits, and No Impact Man that culminates in a tickertape-like site of original and useful productivity postings.
Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Work Week” which just hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller’s List has an interesting posting today aptly named, “How Does a Bestseller Happen? A Case Study in Hitting #1 on the New York Times“.
One of the unresolved economic arguments of the Conceptual Age is the cause of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the early 1800s and why not all countries in the world evolved economically after that. Even sub-Saharan Africa was on pretty even terms with the rest of the world economically as of 1800.
Economic historian Dr. Gregory Clark, from the University of California-Davis has proposed that changes in the nature of human populations were the main reasoning behind the revolution.
Interestingly the theory is strongly connected to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The connection lies in a 1798 work by Thomas Malthus from which the theory of natural selection was inspired. Malthus believed that every time a new technology was introduced to a human population, the overall population would increase thus offsetting any benefits of technological development relegating humanity to a perpetual subsistence economy. Clark analyzed the wills of English men starting around the year 1600 and concluded that men with higher incomes tended to have more surviving children than men with lower incomes. Apparently, as a wealthier upper class began to outpopulate the lower income population, violence decreases and literacy increased. These changes, combined with an apparent willingness on the part of the new population to work long hours and save more, led to the Industrial Revolution as gains in production efficiency outpaced population growth for the first time.
The connection to natural selection is quite apparent with the original Malthusian trap of being permanently in a subsistence economy due to population growth outpacing increases in production efficiency and then the gradual move toward the Industrial Revolution as the wealthier upper class began to overshadow the population of the lower income class due to the wealthier having more surviving children. For a full write-up and explanation, read today’s NYTimes.com article by Nicolas Wade, “In Dusty Archives, A Theory of Affluence“.
My question is if Clark’s theory is too narrow-minded? Is natural selection really the reason behind the suffering in some of the poorest nations in the world today. There are many sound economic arguments that make much more sense than Clark’s, but none are widely accepted as being absolutely correct.
Read this CNNMoney article about Publix Super Market offering free antibiotics to any pharmacy customer with a prescription. Amazing that we can give people antibiotics for free who have the financial means to pay for them, but charge people prices way beyond their means in developing countries.