Mattel and Hasbro announced earnings this week. Both saw sales decline from the collapse of Toys”R”Us. But Mattel’s sales declined only 5% while Hasbro’s declined 13%, and Wall Street applauded the difference. Why? Because Mattel has been aggressively pursuing a digital products and channels strategy, extending its franchises in Hot Wheels and Barbie, while Hasbro has been crowing about its use of social media and ad tech. We’re not saying this is the entire story of the sales declines or stock market, but it does carry an important lesson: The impact of digital happens when companies adopt it deeply in their products and platforms as well as in their experiences. Take this message to your business to secure the transformation commitment you need. Wall Street will recognize the difference, even in a tough quarter.
What everyone will remember about “Super Bore LIII” is not the game or the ads but the post-game Big Beer tit for tat. Budweiser and MillerCoors are engaged in a very expensive fiddle competition while Milwaukee burns. While these two use vast company resources to drive hard-to-measure “earned media,” they should be hyper-focusing on their consumers. 2017 US beer sales were flat, while craft beers grew 5%. Consumer tastes are changing, and Big Beer is not keeping pace, so consumers are opening their own breweries — 7,000 of them, up 20% year over year. Across categories, consumers are testing brands for higher quality, convenience, localism, values, and experience. Not finding what they want, VC-backed entrepreneurs build digital-centric startups to disrupt categories from razorblades to mattresses to beer, stealing share and raising expectations. Pundits define this trend as DTC, but the deceptive moniker evokes a channel, rather than consumer, problem. The risk: You push the same old stuff in a new channel and are surprised when business value doesn’t follow. Forrester will share bespoke research on this game-changing trend and what to do about it in April.
AT&T has been roundly criticized for updating some Android phones on its network to show the network as “5GE.” What that symbol really means is that the phone is able to tap into the faster speeds of improved 4G LTE communications gear on AT&T towers, which AT&T self-servingly decided to label “5G Evolution,” even though no such term has been agreed by industry bodies. But AT&T’s marketing team was hoping to get a free ride on the excitement and anticipation of true 5G network gear and handsets, which won’t really be in place until 2020. Now Sprint has sued AT&T for damaging the value of Sprint’s true 5G network. But let’s look past the noise and smoke. For a realistic take on how networking for IoT and edge devices will evolve, check out our reports on how low-power wireless personal networking (LoWPAN) will power many IoT devices and how new 4G and 5G tech will power IoT devices needing wide-area networking.
Retailer Warby Parker made the news this week for its “virtual try-on” capability. What is it? It’s an augmented reality application, built to allow customers to virtually see what a pair of glasses will look like on their face. But when you look under the hood, the limitations and difficulties of deploying extended reality (XR) applications successfully at scale become apparent. Today, the XR technology market stands at $11 billion in aggregate private funding. At that number, one might surmise that the venture capital community sees a lot of promise. Or does it? Actually, the trend took a nosedive last year, finishing at less than half the funding of 2017. Our latest research highlights this trend, why early adopter results have been underwhelming, and what benefits can be found under the right circumstances.
This week, Glassdoor.com released its 50 Best Jobs in America report. To compile the list, it weighs three factors — earning potential, overall job satisfaction, and number of job openings — equally. In the top 10 are tech roles such as data scientist, product manager, DevOps engineer, and data engineer. While all of these roles score high overall, some of them, such as product manager, score surprisingly low in job satisfaction rating. Why? Comments from dissatisfied product managers run the gamut but generally point to role ambiguity and feeling disempowered. Simply recognizing employees won’t fix these problems. They need clarity about what’s expected of them in their roles, and they need to feel empowered and enabled to succeed in what they’re being asked to do. If you’re concerned about hiring and retaining people in technical roles, seek first to understand the nature of the demands they face in their daily work, and then evaluate whether they genuinely have the resources they need to succeed. Our research shows that role clarity, empowerment, and enablement should be considered key resources essential to not only attracting and retaining good people but also to keeping them engaged.
At the start of the 2000s, McKinsey published its guidance for corporate innovation strategies, the three horizons model. While empowering at the time of its debut and still a big part of its consultation guidance, in today’s fast-moving age of the customer, these focus areas should definitely be part of your innovation portfolio but by no means the full focus. Our research and that of Harvard University show that if you only focus on incremental product and market expansions and disruptor responses, you’ll be disrupted by those looking farther out. Their focus also says to center your innovation strategy on driving your business model expansion. Again, this is an element that should be part of your strategy, but more important is to focus your innovation efforts on mission expansion and customer empowerment.