In a crowded, noisy world, standing out from the crowd isn’t easy. You need to look different, sound different, smell different, whatever it is, something about you needs to be unique enough to register in the split seconds we often have to grab attention.
I’ve never really thought about it this way, but it’s probably the reason for much of the product and industry segmentation happening around us. Sure, some of that is happening due to real product innovation, usually on the back of some new technology, but a lot of it is just to get some more attention. Clothing and fashion trends are an obvious example of this, but not just with shirts, pants and dresses.
Look at shoes, especially sports shoes. Every year there are multiple new products to choose from and much as they try to convince you there’s some fancy new technology that makes this year’s model so much better than last year’s, realistically, how much difference is there? And even if there was infact some legitimate technological improvement, how much difference will it make to the overall athletic performance to any but most elite of athletes? Truth – little to none.
My favourite examples of what, from this day forward, I will call Attention Led Innovation, are toothbrushes and razor blades. Next time you’re in your local supermarket, take a look at how many varieties there are. Both of these product categories are waging a desperate war for your attention.
The razor companies are trying to convince us that more blades, lubricating strips and battery powered vibration swivel heads will give a better shave. The lubrication strips are my favourite. Logically, it makes sense that these would help, even though my face is surely lubricated enough with all the shaving cream isn’t it? But the genius of these strips is that once they lose their lubrication, it’s time to change blades. Not suprisingly, my razor blade consumption has increased dramatically since I started buying those with the strips. It could be that my facial hair has just gotten than much tougher and thicker. Or it could be that the strips are losing their lubrication before the blades lose their sharpness but I rush out and buy more because I need that lubrication. Hmmmm?
Meanwhile, their buddies over in Toothbrush Land have added tongue scrappers on the back of the head of the brush, padded areas on the handle to reduce thumb fatigue (seriously, how many hours do they think we spend brushing our teeth?) and seem to be forever changing the size, angle and height and composition of the strands on the brush head. Charcoal toothbrush anyone? Oh yeah, they also added some batteries too.
In the spa industry, we have many examples of innovation which we are asked to believe is driven by advances in technology, science and data. In truth, it’s all about attention. Skincare products are the sports shoes of our industry – created for attention but sold as innovation. That’s not to say that there aren’t some genuine scientific discoveries and formulaic breakthroughs in skincare that enable better products. No doubt there are. Some. But have a look at how many new products are launched every year, not just by the big skincare companies but also the many smaller companies out there. Is it really possible that there can be this much genuine discovery driving this innovation? Or are they simply repackaging for attention?
More examples of Attention Led Innovation can be found in spa furniture and equipment. Whilst nowhere as prolific as skincare companies, we do seem to have lots of options to choose from when it comes to Massage Beds, for example. The multiple variations and iterations may well provide some tangible, functional benefits, but in most cases this is just a cry for more attention.
The same could be said for an item like relaxation lounges, but not for something like a therapist stool. There is as much need for innovation in a therapist stool as there is for a guest relaxation lounge. So why no innovation there? Simple really. Nobody is paying much attention to it, so why bother improving it. If we suddenly decided that the guest needed to sit on this piece of furniture for a few minutes after their treatment, just watch the new models the manufacturers come out with each year then.
So, next time you’re looking to upgrade your equipment or considering switching to another skincare brand because they offer more ongoing innovation, give some thought to what you’re actually getting. Challenge the manufacturers and suppliers. Are they selling you something with an actual benefit, or simply a few more features? Are they servicing a need in the market or are you just Innovating for Attention?