When we look at strategic plans of corporations we can observe two things. First, their concept designs for future products are developed regularly, and although they have accurately described the future in the past, they are not put in production by the simple reason there is no demand for them and current production processes are not always easy to alter. Second, what is put in production and ultimately offered on the market is a slow iterative improvement of the old product that is approaching the looks and functionalities of the concept designs.
Here are some examples for review. Take the concept car for the new Maybach vehicle as my salient example:
For sure, Mercedes-Benz can produce this version of Maybach even today as its price tag justifies custom-made parts. The described characteristics of the vehicle are such that it is feasible for a company such as Mercedes-Benz to produce this vehicle.
Why do corporations then, if they know what would their future products look like, do not release their iterations sooner and give better future-proof products to people? The simple answer is that consumers would most likely not buy into the new versions although they are more likely to be superior to their predecessors. If there was market demand, surely the big corporations would produce their newer products faster and take more market share profitably from the competition.
This is the case in many industries today. Let’s see an example from the newly unveiled models of iPhone 8 and X.
Imagine what would happen to iPhone sales if Apple only released the X version. By seeing the sales figures of the iPhone 8, it is clear that many would not buy the X version. That is why Apple released first the iterative improvement from the iPhone 7 and upgraded people who were looking for slow progress they can accept, while those who are more receptive of innovation would likely wait for the more future-like X model.
Moreover, compare the iPhone X to the 8 models below:
In both examples from the iPhone and Maybach we can induce that our future is likely to be with more powerful processors, with curvier designs resembling more female bodies, and with as less as unused or undersigned spaces on phone screens or in a car’s design as possible. The future according to concept products of major corporations is far simpler and yet more telling and what is most important it is more user-friendly. Voicebots replace typing, universal translators replace translators, autonomous vehicles replace driving instructors. Everything becomes simpler so the design of future products has to follow the trend.
So why does Apple unleashes two version of its Phone – the X, when it is waiting consumers in the future, and the iPhone 8 that is leading consumers forward in an iterative manner? There are more reasons but here are two important ones:
If the costs of producing two models instead of one aren’t enormous, then Apple showed the way forward for the unrolling of new products – get as many premium future looking products on the market, while leading consumers in that direction with iterative improvement of your older models.
The case is similar with Adidas laceless shoes, as they are easier to maintain, wear and put on, we may also assume that laceless shoes are the future. Adidas also made them in line with the futuristic design we described above, more curvy, like a human body, more ergonomic and higher-quality materials while using simple colours: white, black, grey.
Adidas probably also knows that innovation usually starts from the top, so its Ultraboost models start selling at the high $200 mark. In addition, instead of going strong in promoting obvious improvement of shoes, Adidas, carefully upgrades consumer habits towards its intellectually protected models.
One of the tricks Adidas may have used strategically is to make shoes with laces in the lower tiers, that have laces just as an ornament while they actually do not need them. Such are the NEO models of Adidas. They have laces, just so that consumers can have ease of mind and decide to try them in the first place.
All these three short examples of Adidas, iPhones and Mercedes show that companies can tap into future consumer trends and what the future would look like for numerous reasons we will not discuss in this article, but it is the herd, the consumers who simply cannot take the leap into the future so corporations need to strategise their innovation curves.