Technological innovation does not just change the new products we can buy, it changes the existing products we have. It is not just the usual cycle of a fast, light, whizzy, long battery-life product seeming less good when the next even faster, even lighter, even whizzier, even longer batter-life model comes out. It is also that existing products get regular updates – software gets new versions, hardware gets new firmware, TVs get new channels, websites get new options and so on. And then there is the matter of accessories – the new memory cards, the new software packages, the new data services and more. In other words, what you buy now, how it feels and what you can do with it is not what it will be in six, nine or twelve months.
That is why reputation increasingly matters when it comes to selling technology goods. It has always mattered as a proxy for knowing the details of a product – which company has a good record at producing reliable physical casing that does not fall apart after a few months?
It also now matters as a question of trust in the updates – Will new services be produced for your product and will existing ones be kept on running? Or will you find yourself having spent money on something that has stagnated or, even worse, become defunct?
And it also is one of the ways of keeping sane when faced with too many products with too many options to choose between. Forget trying to understand the dozens of different mobile phone specs on offer (and that is without even getting started on the different phone plan combinations) – use reputation as a short-cut. Which firm do you trust to make reliable products? Which firm do you trust to keep your data secure?
A simple engineering approach – just make the product good – does not fully address these issues of trust and reputation. They certainly are its foundations, but when companies mess up by failing to keep people’s trust over their use of personal data or abandoning development and support for a still fairly new product, it goes much wider.
That is why the most successful companies worry not only about their products and their brand but also their corporate reputation. For if you don’t trust someone, you are going to be much harder to persuade to hand over your money.