Why Commercial vs Haute?

I was at a talk many years ago in a seminar on color and its power in sales.

The presenter showed an inverted slope graph (looking like a ski slope) explaining how design (often) starts as Haute Couture (High End) and moves down the slope through various markets from Fashion, then down to Trend and, as the slope flattens out at the bottom, to Promotional and then to Clearance. Or maybe it was Trend and then Fashion…nonetheless, the point was about progression of a design idea and how it moves through the market.

The key is knowing where to jump on, when NOT to jump on (and knowing when to jump off)…or more particularly where the fit is and how to maintain market position. It’s fine to design and build product and call it “high end”. Sadly however, it is not how the designer/developer sees it…it’s where the market places it. How a market values a new product has to do with the timeliness, innovation, value and price in sync, the market position of the manufacturer and how much the “story” elevates product.

A former manufacturer I knew would insist his products were better because of how “serious” he was about making quality goods, how good his factory was, how his people were the best, and how exclusive his product was. Whilst he was showing product that no others had, he owned the market. In time, that got him to thinking his market position was unassailable. Competitors however, watched, improved, matched and exceeded him, both in styling and quality – and especially in pricing on better product.

With diminishing production, increasing defect rates, mechanical lapses, inadequate follow-up systems, plus an outright adversarial approach and without having adapted to market changes, the “market” consistently moved his products out of consideration and down the line. The “story” no longer matched the reality, and value was a mismatch. Out priced, a market once dominated was vacated. Not a new lesson for sure, but an illustration of the point.

Someone will always do a better job of something…given time and the inevitability of learning brought on by success. Emulation based on competitive desire is a huge driver. When someone sees a nice pie, they want a slice! They gotta get them somma that! To maintain a spot on the curve, innovation is critical, commercial is better than exclusive, value critical. In addition, value to maintain a spot must increase with each generation of products in order to continue to deliver to customer expectation. Once value and price are out of sync – perceived or real – one better find a sled, because it’s a crazy ride to the bottom.

Paul Zaidman