I was lamenting last night all of the great and crazy styles of Duck Tape you can now buy. In fact, my 9-year-old daughter has role of Duck Tape with mustaches as the design. Recently, her 13 your old cousin made a Duck Tape skirt and purse for the Duck Tape dance at her middle school.
How is it that a strong silver tape used for industrial purposes and occasionally exalted by the show Mythbusters for its near magical properties has come to be offered in colors like pink, with stripes and designs like the mustaches and have those rolls of tape wielded by teenagers that have no desire to patch an air conditioner vent with it? I think it is really a study in watching alternate uses by your customers and looking at the jobs they are trying to accomplish.
It all started in the mid 2000's or so with kids using basic Duck Tape to make wallets, fix skateboarding sneakers torn doing ollies, and picking up some love of the product watching its myriad of uses on Mythbusters. It was silver and pretty utilitarian, but it was cool, available in Dad's tool chest and it showed creativity and individualism.
The makers of Duck Tape could have been content with that. They could have rested on their laurels knowing that now parents would have to buy a few extra rolls per year to replace what the kids used and been happy with the slight sales increase. Good thing they weren't. So a company that makes strong tape in one or maybe two colors see what these new users are doing, what job they wish to accomplish and accommodates with styles, colors, patterns and a website that even shows how-tos. Now those product offerings are expanding into Duck Fabric. Need to see it yourself? Check out http://duckbrand.com/index.php/
In essence, the company was smart enough to see new jobs being done, catered to them, and dramatically expanded their brand and sales. One can also posit that the product manager that caught this for Duck Brands got a huge promotion too.
What is the lesson to learn here? Watch your customers. Observe their product interactions in their environment. Listen to their ideas of what they see in your product. Toy companies that have found new uses and markets for toys did so by watching children playing at home, not in a company controlled environment. Mattel never would have realized that sometimes even little girls like Hot Wheels in a controlled environment where the expectations were set by the company.
In the online environment, watch your customer's posts on your site and ignore the need to interrupt or censure. They will teach you more about your product, its shortcomings, its successes and its uses than you could possibly imagine. If you have cultivated a strong and responsive brand negative critiques will always be countered by customers lauding the product and providing you valuable information.
Disruption is great, but often time your customers see a way to do it that you have never considered. Maybe your standard silver product will be adorned with mustaches this time next year?
Jerry is co-Founder and CFO of zenruption. He has created companies in the past and expertly navigated others through the stock market. He loves innovation and has a secret man crush on Elon Musk. Zenruption is Jerry's lifestyle.