When I first read about Blippy, a Twitter-like service that would allow my "followers" to get real-time updates about my credit or debit card purchases, and "like" or comment on them, a la Facebook, I rolled my eyes. Who cares what I just bought at Starbucks, and, more importantly, why would I ever want anyone to know? Who in their right mind would use this?
I had a similar reaction when I saw recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that today's eight-to-18 year olds spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes every day using entertainment media-including cell phones, iPods, computers, video games and TV. When you account for the fact that they're often using more than one device at a time, they actually cram more than 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into that 7.5 hours. The research also found heavy media users get lower grades and are less happy. The research left me wondering, "Who are these kids and what are their parents are thinking?"
But in the same week, I also found myself offering a vigorous defense of three new-ish technologies, and their potential-if still fuzzy-business models. The objects of my enthusiasm: social networking tools in business media, Twitter, and Apple's much-hyped but still-secret tablet device. My bottom line in all three cases (to my boss and a friend) was, "Just because you don't 'get it,' doesn't mean it's not important, or real."
I don't think I convinced either of them, but the discussions did bring me back to a lesson marketing students learn early on: don't mistake yourself for a product's ideal customer.
Executives charged with innovation, or ensuring that products and brands remain relevant for the next generation of customers, live this every day. In financial services, US Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, AIG, and many others reach out to consumers constantly, and in unique ways, to keep a bead on what customers want, and what they might want a few years from now. (See Innovation Fixation, p.22) Similarly, many companies constantly pursue innovation, even when there's not an iron-clad business case to be made; witness Vantage credit union's launch of the first two-way banking service via Twitter (See CU Pushes Twitter Banking, p.1). These next-generation efforts may not bear much fruit, but kudos to Vantage and the like for trying and letting the rest of the industry learn.
All this in mind, I signed up for Blippy. I lasted about 10 minutes. As soon as I registered my credit card and saw all my Christmas shopping data begin to scroll on screen for the entire Blippy universe to see I promptly hit the "delete this account" button. Even after reading interviews detailing the founder's plan to aggregate data and tell me what everyone else is spending on ice cream, or ATM fees, I'm still skeptical about Blippy's prospects. But, I'm glad I checked it out. I need to keep up with what all those media-saturated eight-to-18 year olds think is cool. Just because I don't 'get it' doesn't mean it won't someday be important.