|The Third Annual Interactive
PROJECT BAR-B-Q 1998
Group Report: Consumer Reports
|Participants:||Howard Brown; Compaq Computer|
|Glen Burchers; Tripath Technology||Thomas Dolby; Headspace|
|Gary Johnson; Texas Instruments||Rick Kelly; Press Start|
|Tom Lau; Rockwell||Mark Miller; Harmonix Music Systems|
|Jim Reekes; Apple Computer||Jorge Saljuana; Texas Instruments|
|Robert Sloan; Philips Digital Media Lab||Bob Starr; Staccato Systems|
|Mike Taylor; Aureal Semiconductor||Dick Vail; ESS Technology|
|Van Webster; Webster Communications||Christopher Wendt; Lucent Technologies|
|Allen Whitman; The Mermen||
Facilitator: Linda Law
"The Consumer Reports Group" originally formed around the notion that it would be very useful to paint a picture of what the high tech audio consumer would look like five years down the line. What kind of products would they want and buy? How would the world have changed and what new products would be needed that we had yet to even think of? As you might have guessed already, this was an overambitious task given just under two days of work time. Furthermore, we decided that there were simply too many unknowns to have this effort yield anything but some loose conjecture. It did, however, set us on a path.
Based upon our conclusion that we could not envision the future clearly enough to test specific product ideas, we decided to look at the basic issue of what motivates a consumer to purchase a product at a given time. We decided that such motivation was most likely to arise out of a need or desire of some kind. The more basic and fundamental the need, the more widely desirable the product that could fill such need. We also decided to work from the assumption that people and the society would not change much in the next five years (at least from this point of view). Our new goal would be to come up with a system that would allow one to take a new product concept and be able to test it's relevance and potential appeal to consumers at some point in the near future.
At this point we began to list out all of the potential needs and desires (motivators) that we could think of. About halfway into the list, we realized that the needs and motivators that we were identifying did not apply universally across demographic and socioeconomic boundaries. We would need some organizing principles. Maslow's Hierarchy was introduced. Briefly, Maslow's Hierarchy splits society into four groups. The groups are defined by the level and nature of their most pressing needs. The levels are (as the name implies) hierarchical. One needs to pass through the lower levels to reach the higher levels. For details on the make up of these groups, please see the pyramid chart on the following page.
We also realized in the process of splitting up our motivators that there was at least one more significant piece to the puzzle. A successful product not only needed to satisfy certain motivators, but it also needed to meet some 'form' (or format) oriented criteria to achieve success. We called these factors 'Enablers' in that they enabled a well targeted, useful product to be commercially viable. These are listed in the second column on the next page.
We also found it necessary to separate out basic human emotions from Motivators and Enablers for clarity's sake. All that was left was to give the system a test run.
Earlier in the BBQ we had seen and heard a presentation called Whispering Pines. Whispering Pines documented the run away success of Voice Chat on the Internet gaming service, MPath. Whispering Pines made one thing very clear. The Self Esteem group, the white collar, early adopters were no longer the growth segment of the computer and Internet worlds. The sub-$1000 PC was rapidly wiring the Belonging group. (Hence the unanticipated success of Deer Hunter). This transition would clearly have an effect on new product design as this (much larger, if less affluent) group would have different motivators when considering purchasing a new product or service. The format, popularity, and content of the Voice Chat on MPath was surprising and sobering to all involved.
In order to test our system, we decide to input Voice Chat as a product concept and to look at why it had become so successful. We further decided to look at a second, largely unproven, product concept, 'Mass Market, Technology Enabled, Participatory Music Making' and see how it compared. The results of the process are on the following page. While we will leave you to your own conclusions, we were heartened by the outcome.
Given that Participatory Music Making had a decent outlook, we further decided to compare old technology (the piano) to new technology (Interactive Music Software) in terms of our list of product Enablers to see if we could get a feeling for how they would fare going forward. The results of this process are listed in column two of the next page as well. While we will, again, leave you to your own conclusions, the data is certainly interesting food for thought.
In conclusion, our system is no crystal ball. Only time and the market will decide whether a new product concept will succeed or fail. What our tool does offer is an organized and systematic vocabulary for defining and crafting meaningful value propositions for concepts that have no track record in the field. We hope that you will find this useful.
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