room44 innovates

Apple was innovative. Now it launches no new ideas and has fallen behind in the AI stakes.

Mid-term, what will Apple do to pull it back?

While it was the first $trillion company, and makes more profit than any of its key rivals, it hasn’t invested in gathering data in the way that Google, Amazon and Facebook have done. As AI’s place in our lives is cemented, Apple may have to find a new way to compete.

Or maybe they don’t plan to compete. After all, when Apple took the market with the iPhone, the world was a different place.

Napster had just died.

Blockbuster was still on the streets.

Woolworths was a thing.

Blackberrys were the favourite phone of the corporate IT manager. IT managers were a thing too.

Nokia and Siemens had good market share.

EVs were a lifetime away from being viable.

Now, everything has changed

You can buy barefoot shoes.

It’s OK for people to eat a vegan diet and wear leather.

Lazy workaholics are a demographic and…internal influencers are becoming more trusted than external and celebrity ones.

It’s the same for you

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

If this kind of thinking can be helpful to you, let’s talk.

Here’s my diary. Book some time.

Innovation, ‘new’ product development and creative strategy all have one thing in common; they are forward thinking concepts. Ideas that you have today will launch in the future, into a future market landscape and meet a need for a future consumer.

Nothing about the future has happened yet

Yes, straight line extrapolations of data will predict what might happen based on what went before but data isn’t able to anticipate anything new.


I was brought up watching movies that my dad liked to watch and he loved Westerns. Stories of outlaws and Marshalls. Almost every story involved a bank robbery so my impression of America was that banks got robbed a lot.

The assumed accuracy of this information conflicts with the reality. When Westerns were set, in roughly the second half of the 19th century, banks rarely got robbed. It’s reported that between 1850 and 1900 there were less than 10 bank robberies across all fifteen states of the US.

Following that logic I may have straight line projected and come up with a number for the 2000’s but probably would have missed what has happened and what will happen. According to FBI published data there were 2,451 bank robberies in the US in 2016.

But, this figure is now thought to be reducing

A significant reduction in cash being held by clerks in banks means that holding one up is less lucrative than it once was. It’s also easier to illegally extract money from many, many individuals directly through their bank accounts, online, with the right skill-set.

Don’t just trust the data

To innovate successfully it is essential to apply creativity, intuition and to start believing the signals you see by reading market landscapes. As you make product design decisions it’s really important to see the world through the eyes of your consumers. Through a different lens, if you like.

Sometimes you need help.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.

If this kind of thinking can be helpful to you, let’s talk.

Here’s my diary. Book some time.

And by the way, Tumbleweed isn’t something an American cowboy or bank robber would have seen too often either. It came from the Ukraine. Go figure.

Let’s be honest, innovation doesn’t interest most companies as much as sales.

Companies tend to inspect their future when they’re already seeing a drop in sales because their market moved on without them, or because they are doing really well and need to invest some profit.

It’s more often the former than the latter.

So, the first step to getting more customers through the (metaphorical or actual) door is to try to gain referrals. Even in the digital age, referrals and testimonials are the cheapest sales conversion tool. Cheapest, quickest, simplest.

Customer Experience Management

Customer Experience Management (CEM) became a thing for that very reason: to put some numbers around customer behaviours when referrals tail off.

A common acronym used is NPS – Net Promoter Score: the number given to the consumer’s response when asked if you did something right.

Primary research you can’t buy

I’ve got a friend who, like all of us, sits across many consumer segments and tells it differently to NPS.

He’s domiciled in the UK, spends a few months a year in the US, and travels across Europe for his work in SAP. Not your average consumer, but well placed to see good and bad treatment of customers by brands. Where the average shopper might have favourite stores in different towns, he has favourites in different countries. 

Last week I wrote a blog about the (Emotional Quotient) EQ factor and how it’s an emerging way of understanding and keeping customers loyal so you don’t need to keep looking for new ones. Afterwards, he and I got into an e-mail trail on the subject that I’ve reproduced here with a very few amends.

The message is: brands that are renowned for their good NPS performance need to wake up. Assumed bastions of great customer service aren’t doing so well and they need to work harder to stay in business. 
The chat started with this blog. Enjoy this particular perspective.


Is it great value for money, product quality, service or all three that makes consumers loyal to a brand?

Him. Very few have all three. LL Bean comes [to mind] right away.

Me: I wonder what LL Bean would have to do to lose the loyalty you’ve shown it since we first met [over twenty years ago]?

Him. Yes it’s hard to pick another company in the US. And difficult to pick one in the U.K. besides hotels and B&Bs – which still count as they are businesses. 

To me it’s a combo of value for price. And either never fucking up or, if they do, they fix it promptly and kiss your ass for next time. 

I find the kissing ass for the next time doesn’t happen much anymore. 

Still cheaper to kiss my ass and keep me as a customer than getting a new customer. Because I’ll refer the company if I like them. And the referral will be even better if they fucked up, fixed it and did something to keep my business 

There are hotels in Yorkshire and Scotland that get our repeat business.

Dead models

Volvo [cars] are great but not a UK business. And the [Volvo] dealership experience blows but that’s all over. Such an antiquated business model. Like real estate agents. 

The Paul chain in London is great. Does stuff to keep our business. But they are not UK either. 

Maybe John Lewis. But my negative experience with them when I first moved to the U.K. tarnishes their standing. Maybe I’m too tough therefore can never be satisfied. 

I’ll tell you my favorite section of the Saturday Times and I flip to it first: Customer service horror stories. And of course the [brands] always change their tune when the Times contacts them. I’ll never do business with Vodafone just from reading that over the years. 

Businesses always seem to be interested in new customers rather than retaining old. And now they are hot on data mining BLAH BLAH but core values that keep me as, not just as a customer but, a loyal customer meaning I recommend them to friends seem to have been lost. 

Take Amazon. I really don’t like them. 

I think they are having an overall negative impact. But most times I go to the store or online direct I get more expensive or out of stock product cheaper on Amazon. Free shipping (I’m in prime so my Dad can watch their stuff) and it’s usually in stock. 

Aviva insurance seems good but I’ve never claimed. I get loyalty discount.

CapitalOne credit card (US) is great. Cash back and the best exchange rate around. 3 decimal place from interbank and no fees. 

BA used to be awesome. They were the best at fixing problems and keeping your business That stopped mid 2000s.

Now they are just like everyone else but more costly. Steve (our local car service garage of choice) the mechanic has been good. He fixes bulbs on the car all the time at no charge other than the bulb. That (Volvo) car blows 5 to 7 bulbs a year. 

I’m still thinking about any company in the world I like as much as LL Bean. You can use a product for a year or more and can return it for a refund if you are not satisfied. I’ve never done that but they have replaced zippers on backpacks I’ve used for years. 

Zipper quality seems to have declined in recent years. 

The brands here are listed and tagged because this is useful, and primary, market research that they’d never receive by sending out a NPS questionnaire.

They’re very welcome to discuss this insight and how room44 can help them work our a consumer-centric plan. All they, and you, have to do is click here.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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