The Undesirable Middle

James Surowiecki on how companies without a clear focus on either the high end or low end are in trouble. As we move out of mass media (TV) as the primary way people learn about things into a web-driven era, this will probably hold true even more… For Apple, which has enjoyed enormous success in […]

James Surowiecki on how companies without a clear focus on either the high end or low end are in trouble. As we move out of mass media (TV) as the primary way people learn about things into a web-driven era, this will probably hold true even more…

For Apple, which has enjoyed enormous success in recent years, “build it and they will pay” is business as usual. But it’s not a universal business truth. On the contrary, companies like Ikea, H. & M., and the makers of the Flip video camera are flourishing not by selling products or services that are “far better” than anyone else’s but by selling things that aren’t bad and cost a lot less. These products are much better than the cheap stuff you used to buy at Woolworth, and they tend to be appealingly styled, but, unlike Apple, the companies aren’t trying to build the best mousetrap out there. Instead, they’re engaged in what Wired recently christened the “good-enough revolution.” For them, the key to success isn’t excellence. It’s well-priced adequacy.

And then this stunning statement:

“The boom in information for consumers has also severely weakened middle-market firms. In the past, these companies were able to charge a premium price because their brands were taken as signals of reasonable quality and reliability. Today, consumers don’t need to rely on shorthand: they have Consumer Reports and J. D. Power, CNET and Amazon’s user ratings, and so on, which have made it easier to gauge differences in quality accurately. The result is that brands matter less…”

(my emphasis added)

via Apple : The New Yorker.

Published: March 23rd, 2010

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