Monday, August 13, 2012

Marketing Funda : Marketing and Osborne Effect

Osborne effect is a phenomenon where the sales of an existing product gets affected because of the announcement of future products. Osborne Effect's story goes like this :- During 1980s, Osborne computer corporation was a highly successful computer manufacturing firm which marketed the personal computer named Osborne 1. The chairman of the corporation Mr. Adam Osborne during 1983 announced several future models promising consumers highly efficient and fast machines. When he made the announcements, none of these machines were in the pipeline.

The announcement prompted a heavy cancellation of orders of Osborne 1 because consumers and trade expected the arrival of advanced machines. This event have virtually driven the company to bankruptcy ( although many other reasons also contributed to it ). Source : Wiki , Report

The same effect is now played out in the case of Nokia- a brand which is struggling at the onset of competition from Apple and affordable Chinese brands. Nokia in 2011 announced with much fanfare, its tie-up with Microsoft for the mobile O/S. Nokia announced the shift in the OS from Symbian to Windows much before the actual shift. The first shock for existing Symbian users who began to ditch the existing Symbian models in favor of other platforms like Android. 

Then came the much touted Nokia Lumia with the hyped Windows Mango ( 7.5). The well designed Lumia range was expected to lift the fortunes of Nokia in the smartphone category. The company also launched an affordable version of Lumia in the Indian market thus effectively covering various price-points. 
Then came the announcement of Microsoft about the Windows 8 and the shock that the existing Lumia phones will not be upgradable to the new much talked about Windows 8 platform. No wonder, many of the prospective Lumia buyers will be postponing their purchase.

The trouble is not with Nokia alone. Even Android based mobiles also are facing the issue of frequent upgrades and the existing phones not being able to be upgraded to the new platforms. Google has rapidly introduced upgrades from Froyo to Gingerbread to Icecream Sandwich within a short span of time much to the confusion of  consumers and marketers.
One needs to learn from Apple on how to handle this rapid changes in the technology and specifications. Apple has an advantage since it is tightly controlling the eco-system. It makes the entire upgradation process highly secretive and this prevents any shocks on the existing inventory and product line. 

Android based phone marketers have a huge issue since the platform upgrades are beyond their control. So how can a marketer prevent Osborne effect when they do not have control over the platform changes.? The million dollar question is whether the consumer buy a Ginger Bread Android Phone even after the launch of Icecream Sandwich ? 

The only way is to build a powerful brand having value more than the platform. So till now, the Android makers were riding the equity of Google and Android ingredient brand. But to insulate the after-effects of platform changes, one needs to build their own brand showing more value so that consumers doesn't ditch the brand because of future version announcements. 

Another method is to customize the product so that consumers are lured by the customization rather than the platform itself . Amazon has tried to do that in the Kindle Fire where  the version is customized and hence the user experience is owned by Amazon rather than Android.
Brands can also insulate itself by building a comprehensive package of features and attributes rather than just depending on one single platform.

In the new fight over the platforms, the key to success is the user experience. Firms are now forgetting this and running after platforms. Although platforms are important, it will be the unique user experience that will be luring your customers to your product