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Trade Routes: The Rising Price of Sameness Fatigue

By: Michael Wynne
Posted: April 2, 2007

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These cars are then loaded up with features and accessories that force customers to pay more for things they never wanted in the first place. It’s not surprising that auto dealers, stuck with thousands of cars they can’t unload, are finally rebelling; they are demanding that the manufacturers pay more attention to what consumers want.

Take a serious look at the policies and procedures of your industry, especially those of your company, and ask who they are meant to benefit—the company or the consumer? You will find that a vast number were created to make management’s and the employees’ jobs easier, and along the way probably made buying harder for consumers, with the result that your company lost sales.

What are the features of your industry’s products or services? Why do they exist? Where did they come from? A lesson learned from my years in the chemical industry was to challenge my customers’ specifications. I found that quite often they had not been updated in years, and the original reasons for their existence were simply lost to time. As a result, by sticking with outdated specifications, those companies were missing out on—and denying their customers—the benefits of new technological developments.

What was the basis for selecting the products currently included in your company’s product lines? How long have they been there? Why are they still there? Peter Drucker, author of the seminal analysis of General Motors Corporation, Concept of the Corporation, recommended that companies periodically challenge the existence of every item in their product lines, favoring a policy of regular abandonment of products (and policies) that are no longer earning their way.

Drucker asked the common sense question, “Before you innovate, what do you intend to get rid of first?” Most of today’s products were designed for yesterday’s consumers. If those consumers are still around, they are not the same; their priorities and goals have changed to meet the changing economic world. So, why are you still carrying products intended for what they were and not what they are? Does your company know what today’s consumers actually want?