I offer you two basic premises here, that I think we can all agree on.
1. Most products are crappy – You know this is true. Call me a cynic if you’d like, but if you combine the facts that a) half of the stuff in any category is below average by definition, and b) products that are just above average rarely cause excitement, we’ve just ruled ~75% of the products in any category, and collectively, 75% of all products everywhere, as crap.
That just is what it is, and as the creators of products we need to know that without some real planning, thought, and design (and maybe luck) we’re going to put out a crappy product. As the consumers of products, we’re just so bombarded by shiny new products that —
2. The bar to meet for quality products is always rising – Last year’s great stuff is just okay stuff today, and even top of the line from 2-3 years ago is basically crap. We could be talking about cars, clothing, or consumer electronics. We human creators are always trying to out-do each other and ourselves, so as long as we keep putting out improved products, the older stuff has got to get updated, thrown out, or settled for.
Call it “product-quality deflation” – and it is always working against you.
The result? If you’re not consistently, rigorously, aggressively improving, and more so than the next guy and all the rest of your competitors, your product is getting crappier. As a creator of products, you’ve got to always run a little faster than a treadmill whose speed is set by your customers and competitors.
Product-quality deflation is merciless, and works against you while you sleep. Stay vigilant, my friends, or you will wake up one day to see that this silent force has slowly devoured your whole operation.
This doesn’t even touch on whether you have the right customer or not, whether your price is right, or if your value prop is meaningful. These elements of product strategy will need to wait for a future post.