New and Improved

New And Improved is a wonderful slogan for soap. Not so much for enterprise software.

Yet in the past year I have helped two major software companies with their go-to-market messaging for what was essentially New And Improved versions of their existing products. Noticing this brace of businesses had the unfortunate effect of forcing me to think about the essence of New And Improved market outreach — when and why it makes sense, when and how it doesn’t. When we examine the technology adoption lifecycle and the wave-extension variant thereof, we realize that much of technology marketing involves New And Improved products.

We’re just smart enough not to call them such.

new-and-improvedIn technology marketing, we see several forms of New And Improved products. One is new versions of existing products that have moderate improvements or extensions to the core expected product. Others extend functionality to make the product more competitive, in effect repositioning the product within a segment or market. Other New And Improved products are designed to change the basic competitive field, such as when Apple redefines smart phone or slab markets with new releases.

Other “New And Improved” products are rarely new or improved, and not worth discussing.

There are several primary reasons companies might chose to release a New And Improved offering, and that list includes:

Preserving brand equity: Existing customers like to keep relationships with products, but occasionally need to have their faith in the product reinforced in order to defend against competitor promotions. Laundry detergent is a great example of a product category where everyone offers New And Improved products in order to motivate customers to keep buying them. The improvements are likely cosmetic or minimal, but brand loyalty must be nurtured, even with near-commodity offerings.

Repositioning: Products are often reconfigured to improve competitive positioning. This is especially true when a company augments a product to enter a new segment, but is most common when trying to outmaneuver competitors. Again, the improvement may be minor, but the objective of outbound communications requires telling a story of product improvement in order to change the way some buyers perceive the product.

Strategic advancement: Like Apple releasing new iEverythings, the objective is to take an existing product and move it significantly beyond the competition. Oracle danced this dance for years, masterfully improving their database technology and putting “competitors” far in the backfield. But Oracle and Apple have to communicate their New And Improved products in such a way as to convince buyers that the market itself has changed.

Some day you will have to communicate your New And Improved product to the world. But pitching high tech like you would soap suds is a lousy idea because people are buying much more complex outcomes. Your New And Improved promotional strategy has to be based on the intersection of the purpose (preserving brand equity, repositioning, strategic advancement) and those customers who actually care. Only in the case of strategic advancement do communications need to go to market-wide audiences.

Now you have a New And Improved toolset for New And Improved marketing.


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