Tag Archives: product

Keurig Coffee Pod Regrets | The Guardian


John Sylvan invented the American coffee pod and started a multi-billion dollar company. But he’s full of regrets about their environmental impact.

Actions, as well as in-actions, have consequences.  I presume he made quite a bit of money off his invention, but it seems he’s not really a happy or happier person for it. That’s unfortunate.

The key to understanding what happened with coffee pods is to realise that people aren’t actually buying coffee. So, what are people who buy coffee pods (and the machines that take them) actually buying? Convenience.

And that, sadly, also explains why the coffee pods recycling efforts don’t work: they detract from the experience of convenience.

The fact that there’s a market for some stuff doesn’t mean you have to jump into it – some things are just not good when you think it through (in a “what am I really selling” context). But it depends on what you want to achieve.

Business Plan

At Upstarta meetings we’ve explored the concept of business plans.

In a “traditional” business, you need a business plan because a bank will require you to present one. Since an Upstarta doesn’t go to the bank for a loan or credit, we can re-assess what a business plan should look like to work for us, or even whether to have one at all.

What we concluded is that it’s useful to define your general direction, but the level of detail that a bank would require in certain aspects is not something you need to waste time on. You need to, as always, consider the possible consequences of decisions and structures you set up.

We also know that markets tend to find products, so an early plan (before entering the market) to market/sell a particular product will quickly be obsolete or look like total nonsense. So you plan to explore in a low-cost manner, maintaining flexibility. Make failing steps cheap and fast, to focus on avenues that are promising/viable.

Do you have examples of this from your own experience? We’d like to hear!

Pick Punch – a Creative Product

Upstarta is not about advertising products – but sometimes I spot a product or company that’s worth a mention, because of it actually dealing with a problem people are genuinely trying to solve, or the operational approach to a business.
I find Pick Punch creative, it’s a holepunch for guitar picks.

Naturally people would use specifically suited materials for serious work, but… as the picture already shows, you can punch almost anything including old credit cards and store loyalty cards. That’s hilarious, and such an excellent marketing gimmick: it makes the product and company get talked about.

Likely, a pick from an old card might not be perfect for the pick job, but it can be “good enough” and you can get a few picks out of a card. Even if you don’t “collect” such cards, you’re likely to have a few, and they do expire. Since you’d cut up or shred an old card, turning them in to picks along the way deals with the safety aspects, and extends the useful life of the material.

It looks like the product started as a novelty item – quality picks aren’t that expensive compared to the cost of the punch product. But, many guitar fanatics like to make their own picks (personalisation) so it does match a demand.

What People Actually Buy

People don’t actually buy a product. And the marketing notion of “solutions” is not really something customers buy in to, either – it’s closer to the truth, but an over-simplification that can distract you from what it’s actually about.

When you purchase a cup of coffee, you’re buying a caffeine shot, or a bit of pastime, or an enjoyable moment chatting with friends – or a combination thereof.

When you purchase a car, you buy the ability to get from A to B with some additional requirements/benefits, it may serve as a status symbol, and so on.

It’s about purpose, the difference between the means and the goal. When product developers and companies forget this, both their product and their communications go weird. And when community advocates don’t keep this in mind, they won’t understand client behaviour.

Take someone on their way to work who is going to get stuck in morning traffic. They might buy a cup of coffee, but a hot drink can be dangerous in a car. They could get a croissant or other pastry, but that can get grease and crumbs over the business attire. So they might instead go for a milkshake – it’ll have a cover and a straw, and takes a fair while to drink. It satisfies the objective: pastime. That’s what that person is actually buying.

I think it’s a neat example because it shows that for this market, coffee, pastries and milkshakes are actually direct competitors and the specific “features” for selecting one or the other are not at all what you might otherwise expect. For instance, it’s not primarily about the quality of the coffee: this buyer group has dismissed the coffee option well before even getting to that consideration, so making improving the coffee quality is not going to make them change their mind. Good to know!

I’m writing about this today because I’m seeing so many articles and blog posts about Apple after the passing of its co-founder Steve Jobs. There are lots of technological (hardware and software engineering) and business ideological (licensing) aspects so Apple is very interesting to review in this way, and much can be learnt from it.

But it’s really very important to realise that when someone purchases an iPhone, they’re buying productivity, status, ease-of-use-through-familiarity, easy integration with other hardware, and so on. Similar analysis can be done for the iPad and Mac laptops/desktops.

It’s definitely possible to point to other hardware and prove that it’s better, and to another software environment and prove that it provides more freedom. But if “better hardware” and “software freedom” are not high on the consumer’s list of requirements, even winning that argument wouldn’t make a difference to their behaviour.

If you were intent on having them care for either or both of those things, then you need focus on that prerequisite first. In a nutshell, “better” or even “fit for purpose” is relative to the objective, and it’s not at all about speed and features and quality. For some those things can be a factor, but you need to figure that out and chances are it ranks lower than other issues. Someone’s reason for choosing Windows or OSX “over Linux” is not the same as your reason for choosing Linux over Windows and OSX.

Years ago I purchased a MacBook. I’ve written about this before, what I was actually buying then was the ability to suspend/resume reliably, and have working wifi on my laptop. It was something Linux didn’t offer me at the time – that’s sorted now and I now actually run Linux on my old MacBook hardware. My next laptop won’t be an Apple, or at least not for the purpose of running OSX. I like free (as in open) software, but I also have work to do. So every time it comes up, I have to make a pragmatic choice.

At many tech conferences, including those in the Open Source space, you will see a huge number of MacBooks. If you want to know why those people bought them, ask. You’ll find it most educational. Just make sure it’s not perceived as an attack of their choice or ethics or whatever, because chances are you’re not the first to ask and there have been others with an agenda.

If you want to potentially convince people to buy different stuff, you really need to first understand why they’re currently purchasing the things they are. Don’t presume. Then either find or create a product that matches their specified needs better, or come up with a need that will rank higher but hasn’t previously been applied.

Yes, that’s what Apple has done under Steve Jobs’ leadership. And whatever you may think of the hardware, software, marketplace and licensing, I regard it as a great accomplishment in product development and marketing. I appreciate that that doesn’t rank highly from a tech perspective, but I do believe it’s not only worthy of respect but definitely worthwhile understanding.

If you are active in this field either developing products or in the community, and don’t yet understand that Apple didn’t just create another computer, walkman and phone, do learn about this as it’s essential to what you’re trying to do. It’s not about then copying that, but about understanding how it works.