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Allen Adamson 

Co-Founder & Managing Partner

The Simple Question That Gives Your Brand a Competitive Advantage

From one industry to the next, there's no question that business success relies on innovation. Innovation grows a business, and helps it stay ahead of the competition. While many marketers begin their quest for innovation by asking "what," more and more of today's highly successful businesses are the result of those asking "how?" Their objective is to identify ways to change up how consumers do things – the stuff of daily life – to make these activities easier, more convenient, or better.

Rather than focus on products or services to command market segments and gain customer loyalty, they look through the lens of consumer experience. They don't assume people won't change the way they've always done things, but find that if you offer them a more compelling option, they will.

Zooming out, looking at how consumers live day to day as the driving force for innovation, is enabling these businesses to gain remarkable growth across multiple categories. They are, in effect, transforming the marketplace through experience disruption, not product disruption. This fresh paradigm for innovation – reimagining the old way in a new way - is not just the topic of my book, Seeing the How, it has become the de facto standard operating procedure for achieving sustainable competitive advantage.

Although asking "how" is often overlooked, it is fast becoming a significant factor in marketplace transformation. When you begin by asking "how," the marketing strategy is not reliant on selling, per se, but on building a relationship with consumers by demonstrating a genuine understanding of their wants and needs and delivering on it in never-imagined ways. Multiple examples abound, be it how we now set up meetings on Calendly, hold meetings on Zoom, ride in Ubers, stay in Airbnb homes, pay bills with Venmo, fit out our closets with Stitch Fix, or pamper our pets with Chewy, all new ways versus the old ways of going about these activities.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous examples of innovative success prompted by a business asking "how," not "what," come from Apple. This iconic brand has transformed how we do a great many of life's commonplace things in myriad ways. And, it was on a recent trip to London that I was reminded of just how quickly these behavioral transformations take over. On a previous trip I had my iPhone, of course, and used it quite extensively for my communication needs. But I also carried a separate charger and the requisite cord, as well as a traditional wallet for credit cards, local currency and appropriate forms of ID. In addition, I kept maps and any necessary guidebooks or tickets tucked into various suit and overcoat pockets.
But on this trip, a couple of simple little things changed how I went about my day. I had my iPhone, but also a slim and nifty MagSafe battery pack that snapped magnetically onto to the back of the phone, ensuring I'd have the charging power I'd need all day without bulky chargers or cords. In addition to this, I had a MagSafe wallet that also appended to the back of the iPhone with special, discrete magnets. The wallet held my ID with space for a little extra cash, should I need it. The thumb slot on the back ensured easy access. This triumvirate of light-weight, sleekly designed Apple products provided everything I needed for ambling around the city.

First of all, I had all of my talk-text-Facetime-Zoom requirements in hand, as well as digital access to maps and GPS and museum tickets. Then, I also had any and all payment devices at hand. Unlike my last trip, I was able to pay for almost everything with Apple Pay. Not just the big-ticket items like theater tickets, restaurant dinners, or a new sweater from M&S, but so many of the little purchases traditionally paid for with cash, like ice cream at a West End show or a bottle of water from a street vendor. The transformation of this tap-to-pay consumer behavior only continues to increase in scope and scale in terms of both buyers and sellers. An added security feature of the MagSafe wallet is that, in the unlikely event it snaps off, you receive an alert on your iPhone.

Suffice it to say, leaving the hotel every morning of my visit, all I had to do was grab my iPhone, Apple's slim and trim MagSafe charger and wallet, and I was good to go. Apple's innovative thinking about how to make the things we do easier and more convenient – its offering of this magical magnetic technology – has, once again, given it, a competitive advantage. It was the first in its category to enable us to change up how we do things in a way other smartphone brands are just now catching up on.

In today's hypercompetitive landscape, in which product differentiation is fast losing its edge as a competitive advantage, the smartest marketers begin their quest for innovation by asking "how?" They understand that myopia is not an option. As such, they are zooming out and looking at how their offerings fit into peoples' lives, transforming what people do, not buy, to keep their lead. Their businesses speak to market segments and consumers that are diverse and far-flung.

What they share is the ability to see and seize opportunities to significantly change our daily routines for the better in never-imagined ways. As for my travels in London and how I went about my daily routines, Apple's inventive offerings brought to mind an old campaign slogan made famous by another iconic brand, "Don't leave home without it." (For those too young to remember, thanks for the borrowed interest, American Express!)

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