When Convenient Becomes Inconvenient?

By Jeff Bowman

Product innovation began when someone chipped off the corners of blocks to make them round, making the transport of items a little easier. I am proud of my cavemen ancestors for being so creative because the wheel has led to cars, petrochemical refining, industrialization and the marketing of millions of convenience items to make ones life so much more simplistic.

I remember the Jetsons from when I was a kid. Meals came in pills, everyone lived and worked in skyscrapers, flew to work, and had machines that cleaned their house, made the meals, disposed of the dishes and even got them showered and dressed in the morning. Wow, what a life.  Think of the manufacturing innovation that has to happen to make all that great stuff a reality.

One of my first jobs out of school was working for a division of a large pulp and paper mill.  We were warned back in the 80’s that our industry was in decline and that the paperless society was a scant few years away. Well, here we are 30 years later, and paper is still here, mountains of it everywhere you look. I look around at the innovations that were supposed to make our lives so much easier and I really start to ask myself “is this really product innovation or marketing spin?’

From frozen dinners back in the 50’s to fast food and high caloric, high cholesterol delights in a box today. We all lead busy lives what with cell phones enabling us to communicate anywhere, anytime with anyone, blackberries notifying us of every e-mail or sports score, computers that allow us the pleasure of working 60 + hours a week from the comfort of our home office (which used to be referred to as a family dwelling) and drive through coffee to keep the caffeine pulsing through our veins.  Home chores are now a snap.  I can quickly wipe my floors with waste site filling disposable rags, far easier than a standard mop.  I no longer need to rake, I can just blow my leaves and grass clippings onto the road or my neighbor’s yard with smoke spewing or electrical blowers, and hope nature doesn’t decide to blow them back on my lawn a day later. No worries, I can just get into my car and just a mile or two to one of several branded coffee shops where my desire for any flavour of coffee imaginable might be satisfied for a few bucks, and I don’t even have to wash the cup, I can throw it away. Now if I can just remember what size a Grande is. Ah, the convenience!

Cavemen never envisioned how society might morph from simple innovations.  Dr. Suess nailed it with “The Lorax”!

I ponder as I drink my fresh-bought tea, why it needs to be so damn hot that it burns my lips, so hot that they need two paper cups to hold it.  Wouldn’t it be more earth friendly to lower the temp a couple of degrees and use a single cup like coffee? A small start to a massive innovation aimed at environmental and sociological changes. Maybe there was a reason the cartoon men in the Jetsons were a little paunchy and out of shape, right Mr. Spacely?

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Environmental, Innovation, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing

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