It is easy to see the fantasy in the Harry Potter series. In the fantasy economy, however, fantasy can be fulfilled in the midst of everyday experiences, for fantasy is just a wish or desire. Another ordinary product is the bicycle. The basic design and function of today’s bicycle is more than 100 years old. Yet the desire for improved performance on the racecourse for that added edge and the increased feature comfort for families on excursions have both driven new innovation. in each case, an unobvious aspect of the bicycle riding experience has improved the obvious design.
Trek is a company that for 25 years has pushed the innovation edge on bicycles for both the serious racer and the casual rider. Trek has used emerging composite materials technologies to reduce weight coupled with functional innovation to improve ride performance and comfort. For example, Trek did not invent shock absorbers for bikes, but its “fuel” suspension system better reduces bobble and sway and its “liquid” frame design adapts the bike’s geometry to maintain weight distribution toward the rear tire for better control. Most recently, the company has embraced industrial design as a means to emotionally bridge the gap between the company and the end users. The new sculpting in conjunction with engineering performance has provided an identity built on performance and fulfillment of user expectations.
Lance Armstrong is very much a model of Harry Potter. Raised in Plano, Texas, he overcame a troubled family life and pedaled his way to becoming the record six-time winner of the grueling Tour de France. Along the way, he also became a cancer survivor, furthering his mystique of greatness.
Trek has gained international recognition through its sponsorship of Armstrong. Armstrong’s relationship with the company goes deeper than Tiger’s or Michael’s or Kobe’s with Nike and others, who just use sponsors’ products, maybe even exclusively. Armstrong is an integral connection to Trek’s brand, and, as such, Trek has become an advocate for cancer research. Although the Trek brand will maintain strength without Armstrong, the long-term relationship has strong brand association with the public. The connection predates Armstrong’s amazing world record, yet the long-term association has propelled Trek to the forefront as Armstrong became the wizard of bicycle racing.
starbucks is the prototypical company that took a commodity, coffee, and transformed it into a high-value experience at high margins. Everything about Starbucks shows success: from the coffee itself—Arabica beans carefully obtained from select growers worldwide—to a roasting process that provides consistent flavor, to the brewing process, to the store environment that is a cross between a high-end European cafe and an inviting college coffeehouse, to all the coffee-related accessories you can purchase as gifts for others or self. Starbucks as a service provider is the Hogsmeade of Harry Potter, and its coffee the hot butter beer, both ultimate experiences that support fantasy.
Although starbucks is still on a rapid expansion curve, CEo Howard Schultz recognized that the growth potential for coffee consumption and new store placement are limited. Rather than wait until that limit is reached, he wanted to begin to explore new ways to grow while maintaining the company’s guiding principles. Schultz read the social, economic, and technological trends. He understood the trend in music laid out in Chapter 4. He also understood the sociological connection between sophisticated coffee tastes and sophisticated music tastes. Schultz stumbled upon the Hear Music retail store. He immediately loved its service-based approach to music. Customers could buy sophisticated, unusual music and call on the educated staff to help out not just with the transaction but also with music selection, much like the service provided to patrons of an intimate wine store. Rather than commoditizing itself with shelves of ubiquitous popular top-40 hits, the store is known for hard-to-find adult-oriented music, specialty R&B, and jazz. Hear Music reaches a larger market than its target, the affluent 25- to-50-year-old who listens to NPR. The music-shopping experience at Hear Music met the coffee-buying experience at Starbucks!
Schultz believes in organic growth, so the story continues. Not only did he buy the business, he made one of its founders, Don MacKinnon, his VP of music and entertainment. He didn’t just keep the business separate; he began to merge and integrate. First, Starbucks sold compilation CDs of various artists made by Hear Music. Then, Schultz and MacKinnon created a new model for coffeehouses. Customers can get their double mocha nonfat grande latte and sit at a music station where they have access to tens of thousands of songs. As they select their menu of music as eclectic as their coffee selection, they design their own CD. They pay per song, and the
CD is burned and personalized with a CD label and jewel case insert that they select. They walk out with their half-drunk coffee and personalized CD in five minutes. The Hear Music Coffeehouses have so far been a hit, and expansion has begun, much like the initial expansion of Starbucks itself.
From wizards to vegetable peelers to bikes to coffee, innovation is found by identifying the extraordinary part of the ordinary. innovation is not wizardry or luck, but is the flower of diligent work—work that uncovers the potential that a product can achieve for its users. Harry Potter is a wonderful example of converting the ordinary into the extraordinary. Every product and service highlighted in this book is an example of meeting or exceeding the customer’s emotional expectation, of form and function fulfilling fantasy. As long as those four Fs drive what you do you in planning, researching, developing, and executing your product, you will set the bar for innovation in your own field. You will deliver a product or service in the fantasy economy.