The Engagement Continuum

“Remember the Date” – Yes, that’s what Apple wants us to do.

Remember today because today would make our tomorrow bright.

I am not so sure if I feel the same.

It’s now or never for Apple. Either they stick to their incremental modifications and put a new number to their iPhone or they radically add new features and change the form factor to give it a fresh look. As a safe bet, I would have gone with the latter but for Apple it is too late to harp on such thoughts.

Why safe bet entails a radical approach?

To do the former is a huge risk. This means that Apple is not taking their consumers seriously and is not challenging them enough. Incremental modifications are fine but in the present evolving times, nobody cares. Still today, other than the Hotspot functionality, no one really knows why there is a Bluetooth feature on all the versions of the iPhone.

I am not expecting radical changes in today’s WDC event but I am certainly geared up for the statement that Apple makes with its product launches. I am sure from a corporate standpoint the introduction of the intensely rumored/debated iWatch is their endeavor to keep up with the pent-up demand of the consumer’s tech fodder. Such a product would certainly be game-changing but at what cost. Would it be at the cost of delivering yet another low appealing iPhone? Only time will tell.

The attention/focus/likability timespan of consumers have declined considerably. This has impacted brand loyalty. Steve Jobs and his army of products created a halo effect on consumers. They were not consumers anymore, they became fans, they became followers, they became a part of his pop culture. Steve believed that the consumer is super-smart and thus should be enabled with super-smart devices.

During Steve’s timespan, through his products, he challenged the consumers to explore beyond their usual realm. He made them a part of his unique experiment which stated in bold that “We are ready for the future. We are ready to look beyond the present times”. It sounded plain and simple but yet it was an audacious path to follow. He bent his team forwards and backwards to give the consumers an amazing experience.

Such an effect is missing from Apple nowadays. Everyone talks about of not losing Relevance and everyone seems to relate Creating Fans to Facebook likes and Twitter followers. I also used to stress a lot on Relevance but over time I have realized that Relevance is just one of the factors that shapes the company’s present and future.

Creating Fans is an easy step but to continuously engage them and not lose them over time is the hard part. This is when your initial product has to evolve rapidly and radically.

Think about this, you start with a desktop computer and end with a chip inside your brain. All produced by the same company. This is innovation coupled with continuous engagement. Obviously, as Steve Jobs and Henry Ford stated “Consumers do not know what they want”. I agree to this point completely but what is missing is the second part which I would like to fill in – “They don’t mind being surprised, awestruck from time to time”.

When you look at Engagement vis-à-vis Relevance, you will realize that Relevance can be measured with time and a lifecycle can be attained. On the other hand, Engagement is a continuous infinite practice which is segmented as per Critical Points. Within the span of each Critical Point resides the Relevance Quadrant.

Below is a diagram that I have created for your better understanding.

Engagement Cycle 

As you can see from the above diagram, each Quadrant of Relevance adds to the overall Engagement Cycle so that the product or the company is kept refreshed in the consumer’s minds either by incorporating radical changes or completely updating to a new version. Tech products cannot be treated as legacy products like an antique handbag of Louis Vuitton. The simple differentiator being for legacy products – with age, buying value appreciates whereas with tech products – with age, the buying value depreciates. Each small circle is the critical point at which the company Breaks or Breaks-through. If the company misses the critical point then it loses a quadrant of relevance (in my words a relevance cycle). It can regain another relevance cycle, if the company addresses the critical point through continuous chatter heightening the interest levels of the consumer. The ultimate goal would be to create a “WOW” experience and not just any other experience.

Such an Engagement Continuum should be the key apparatus for any company. There would be hard decisions to make but one has to realize if the world was ideal then all of us would have been smiling all the time.

In my opinion, staying relevance is a relative phenomenon because the consumer’s perspective evolves with time but to maintain an increased level of engagement is the survival route of the fittest.

To quote Jobs and Ford again, “We, the corporates, know that consumers doesn’t know what they want (back to my quote) BUT they don’t mind being surprised, awestruck from time to time”.

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