Business Innovation: If the Consumer is King, the Brand must be the King’s Jester

The average company (sort of) understands customer needs in existing markets. But the companies we admire for their innovative(!) ideas and products transcend these existing markets.

Sony has been one of them. The original Sony would have brought the mp3-player/iTunes bundle (called iPod) to the market. They would have thought ahead of the people's new independence, individuality, and impatience. Might even have empowered it!

"What drove Sony's shift from a disruptive to a sustaining innovation
strategy?

Prior to 1980, all new product launch decisions were made by
cofounder Akio Morita and a trusted team of associates. They never did
market research, believing that if markets did not exist they could not
be analyzed. Their process for assessing new opportunities relied on
personal intuition.

In the 1980s Morita withdrew from active management
in order to be more involved in Japanese politics. The company
consequently began hiring marketing and product-planning professionals
who brought with them data-intensive, analytical processes of doing
market research.

Those processes were very good at uncovering unmet
customer needs in existing product markets. But making the intuitive
bets required to launch disruptive businesses became impossible."
(Clayton Christenson, Rules of
Innovation
)

The new Sony could only follow – not lead – the pack. Doing incremental 'innovation' and marginal 'revolution'. Trying to sell followership as leadership.

Average managers and companies are raised, students are taught: take no risks, the next quarter is the target, the vision stays in the drawer (for good or – if you are lucky – better times), and 'the consumer is king'.

The most powerful person at the consumer-is-king's court is the king's jester, because s/he surprises the king consumer and does not bore him. S/he does not copy the king consumer, S/he challenges him and develops him by that. S/he is intelligent, intuitive, and imaginative. S/he is wise and funny!

Do not try to please the king in anticipatory obedience. Challenge the consumer by leading – not by following. Help him to become bigger than life. Grow and develop him. Inspire the consumer like s/he has never been inspired before.