Recently, my husband and I attended a production of “Pride and Prejudice” at the local community theatre. First, I didn’t even know Jane Austen’s famous book had ever been made into a play. Second, because of the short time available for a stage production, I missed some of my favorite passages with Mr. Darcy. Finally, I live in Texas, so we had to laugh at some of the feigned English accents.
In fact, my husband’s mother is British. After about 15 minutes, he whispered to me “Where is this taking place? Louisiana?” (Remember we’re both engineers and not experts in literature! Pride and Prejudice is definitely a “chick flick” anyway.) The props did have fleur de lis painted on them and the play actors’ accents were far-removed from his mother’s accent. One guy definitely sounded more Irish than English!
Accents and Innovation
So, you’re probably wondering, “What do fake English accents have to do with innovation?” Maybe more than you think.
When we are designing and developing new products, the expectations of our customers are most important to satisfy. We can design features and functions that add value for them. Or we can fake it. A “fake” feature is one we tell customers is great, but the product does not support our claims in quality or cost.
Another example of a “fake” feature is one that a company develops and promotes but customers don’t want. Presenting customers with a more expensive product with features they don’t want is as ridiculous as an actor trying to speak proper English over a Southern drawl.
Identify Important Features
While my mother-in-law’s British accent is familiar and true, I was perfectly happy to accept the “fake” English accents at the play. My goal – as a customer – was to spend an afternoon away from the normal hustle and bustle, to be entertained, and to enjoy a familiar story in a new format. You have to know your audience to know what features to offer them. In this case the fake English accent allowed the production of Pride and Prejudice to go on. The producer understood customer needs.
New products start by offering a core benefit. (Read more here about the whole product.) All competitors must offer the core benefit – a necessary feature or function – for the product to sell in the marketplace. For example, a ballpoint pen must have ink in it and be able to transfer the ink to paper.
The actual product includes those features that are new and add extra value or convenience for a customer. A retractable ballpoint pen keeps the ink inside the holder, so it doesn’t stain your pocket or purse. Such added features are initially differentiating but quickly become necessary for the core product when competitors also adopt this new functionality
Finally, augmented features are what makes the difference between an ordinary product and an extraordinary one. Today, a lot of ballpoint pens have a rubber tip for tapping on your phone or tablet. This is a special feature, useful for people with cold or dirty fingers. A customer is willing to pay a higher price to access special features.
What is Your Accent?
Knowing your customer means knowing which features are important. This information will guide product innovation so that you don’t waste time on unnecessary or unwanted features and functionality. If your audience accepts the fake English accent in exchange for two hours of entertainment, you are successful, but you must know what your target audience (your customer) wants and will accept in the product.
Join me for the online WAGILE Product Development class on 15 and 16 July. In this short course, we focus on valuing the customer and apply WAGILE principles to speed the product development process. We learn which features customers want so we don’t have to fake it. Register here – space is limited.
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