Novelty – the driving force for today’s consumers


If you are a B2B company you can stop reading now and go to one of my other posts you may have missed previously. But for founders of B2C ventures please read on.

It’s become a truism that today’s generation – millennials? generation X –  is focused on experience, not possessions. The materialistic culture of us baby boomers has given was to the experiential culture of youth today.

This is one reason why the “sharing economy” of AirBnb and Uber is so successful. Why own a car when you can take advantage of mobility as a service – MAAS – and avoid all the costs and maintenance chores that coming with ownership? The money saved by not buying a car can go into experiences – mainly travel, but also entertainment events. Live performances are keeping many musicians in business just as the advent of music streaming – yet another example of renting, not owning is destroying income from recorded music. And of course streaming music is yet another example of renting versus owning and experience versus ownership.

This focus on experiences instead of material goods may be one of the real reasons retail is in dire straits today. But both retail and B2C ventures can lure customers with the secret sauce of today – novelty.

While my wife, whose interest is in cooking, and I, whose interest is in technology in business, try to one up each other on extreme cases of novelty we come across, sometimes the twain meet, as in The Wall Street Journal article Dull Skin? Restless Sleep? There’s a Drink for That. And note the every helpful Journal sub-title Beverage makers add aronia berries and fermented beets, promising to do everything from aid sleep to boost cognition. 10 points to readers who know what an aronia berry is and another 10 if you can tell me the taste!

Hundreds of new beverages are launched every year in the $3 billion a year beverage market.  Overall, venture capital firms have invested more than $170 million in functional beverage companies so far this year, according to data provider PitchBook. That’s up from $111 million in all of 2017.

Gut Punch a fermented beet juice that is flavored to taste like Coca-Cola, received a $6.5 million investment in March from a group led by General Mills Inc.’s fund. To say that it’s a fast growing, but crowded market is an understatement. Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, has 400 brands alone! But Kombucha is old school, what the cool kidz are drinking today includes Gloe waters fortified with aloe vera, turmeric, and ginger. Drinks that are on track for about $20 million in sales this year.

And if you still don’t buy into my novelty thesis just read a few restaurant reviews – there are bound to be ingredients in dishes that you don’t even recognize, and might not want to, as those who don’t know that sweetbreads is actually animal offal. How the beverage market has changed is neatly summarized by this quote:

“The question was always how does it taste?” said Dino Sarti, co-founder of L.A. Libations, a beverage company with investments in brands including Gloe waters fortified with aloe vera, turmeric and ginger that are on track for about $20 million in sales this year. “Now everyone’s question is, what does it do for me?”

So if you are building a product, or even a service, for today’s consumer, ask yourself these four questions:

  • What’s new and exotic in my product?
  • Do I have a really off-the-wall name for my product, like Gut Punch?
  • Have I planned for even more exotic follow-on and accessory products?
  • What’s the health or mental benefit of my exotic offering?

I’ve done a bit of mentoring for an MIT student startup called,who use machine learning to convert your voice into a different one – a famous person like Barack Obama, or even a person of a different gender. I got a laugh out of hearing myself voiced as a girl! But also is taking advantage of the other mega-trend of this era: personalization. You can even build your own, custom voice on their site! I’ve never liked the way my voice has sounded when I hear it recorded, so my next project is to create a new voice for myself to use in recordings that won’t sound so grating to my ears.

Whether it’s yesterday’s visual skins for games or today’s voice skins, infinite novelty is just a few mouse clicks or finger taps away! And if it isn’t the likelihood of that product being even tried once again is between zero and nil.



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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