Commercial Construction & Renovation

MAY-JUN 2017

Commercial Construction & Renovation helps our subscribers design, build and maintain better commercial facilities by delivering content to meet the information needs of today's high-level executives.

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CRAFT BRAND AND MARKETING 114 MAY/JUNE 2017 CBAM-MAG.COM Here's what I have learned. Though there are plenty of com- panies in mature industries who spend big on finding the next unicorn in their industry, I rarely saw them succeed. This is not to say they didn't invent new things, some of which were pretty cool with seductive features. Typically, these products enjoyed little commercial success, as well as became financial disasters because they were poorly grounded in making a real difference in the customer's world. Where there was success to be found in mature industries was in discover- ing something to make a difference in the customer's world. This might mean something such as faster turnaround on product orders to completely reconfiguring the entire customer experience so a customer got more bang out of a product. As such, I'd always bet first on creating better customer experi- ences as a growth strategy. The reason is, as any industry ma- tures, including craft brewing, the entire industry tends to become more product focused to the point of ignoring customers and what's going on in their lives. In the meantime, custom- ers are going about their lives, often looking for better or more meaningful ways to live it. The opportunity for growth in maturing industries comes from working to better understand the day in the life of the customers and to figure out how they could enjoy what the company makes in new and interesting ways. Woo me away... Here's an example of what I mean. In our home, we cook and entertain frequently. This puts us in the grocery store multiple times every week to buy fresh. We have a nice store nearby, with the typical store elements: produce section, deli counter, fish and meat counter, pharmacy, bakery, etc. Recently, we were in the Wilmington, N.C., area contemplating our escape from New Jersey's taxes. Our realtor mentioned the local grocery store, Lowes Foods, had a craft beer and wine bar inside the store. I don't think he was ready for my reaction, as I grilled him mercilessly with questions about Lowes. Sure enough Lowes' Beer Den existed. I was able to try four brews for free, then buy a pint to go about shopping with my cart's cup hold- ers to assist – what a concept. Honestly, I don't remember what beer I drank that day, but I knew Lowes had delivered to me an awesome customer experience, in probably my future grocery store. Betting the company's future on the next big thing is a powerful urge, often yielding little success. Don't get me wrong, a company that has been as successful as PBR has been in the past 21 years, would be on the top of my list as a candidate to invent such a new beer. A new customer experience is far more likely to be achieved because the constant societal change is always presenting new situations to create new experiences. more styles, types and flavor do people need? Though a new beer is intriguing, it raises a more important ques- tion for any craft brew business. Is it more critical for a company to focus on product innovation or to create a superior customer experience? Most people would argue both are equally important. And yes, theoretically that's true. But if you had to bet your resources on only one – a better product or a better customer experience – for your company's long-term success, which would you chose? Do you want my answer? Since I'm about to give you my perspective, here 's a bit more on my background. It is not based on having worked in a brewery, or even in the beer industry, though I have tremen- dous credentials enjoying beer. My view is based on having worked on both new product creation, as well as creating new customer experiences. As the lead marketer on GE's Living En- vironment House in the late '80s, this research project developed innovative new products for home construction and living. Along with 53 partner compa- nies, many ideas were developed and showcased, such as the first home automation system, smart toilets and high performance win- dow systems. Many of these ideas now are in consumers' homes. Later in life, I advised com- panies in very mature industries, with lots of competition, tight margins and declining pric- es. Most of these companies dreamed of a new product to free them from the commoditiza- tion of their industry.

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