Apple never releases a product into market before its competitors. If you didn’t know any better, you would think this is a deliberate strategy. And you’d be correct. Because it is. And it’s not a new one. It’s borrowed from Raymond Loewy and based on the understanding that consumers are always looking for familiarity in any new product or service. Consumers do not like ‘optimal newness’ and even in some cases, downright scared of technological advancements that make them feel dumb, stupid or disfluent. So Apple releases products into a market after everyone else has. Everytime.
The grand release of most Apple products always follows the innovation that some other company has tested before the ‘jury of customers’.
The same was true for the Apple Watch. And will be true for the soon-to-be-released Apple Homepod which will be the 5th or 6th voice controlled home device in the market.
So how does Apple enter a market late, by our standards, and still captures a good chunk of the market? It’s based on the philosophy of MAYA ‘Most Advanced Yet Acceptable’ put forward by an industrial designer called Raymond Loewy.
Based on what is now known as the ‘mere exposure effect’, Raymond Loewy developed a grand theory of product design suggesting that consumers gain comfort from new products that have elements the consumer is already familiar with. He called this theory MAYA, Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. Raymond Loewy realized that, even in our need to experience new and original things we want those things to be derivative of things we already know. He believed, according to Derek Thompson in ‘Hitmakers’,
“that all consumers are affected by the conflicting forces of neophilia (a curiosity about new things) and neophobia (a fear of anything too new).
Based on this understanding, Raymond Loewy went on to successfully design products as broad-ranging as tractors, locomotives, toasters, automobiles, Greyhound buses, Pepsodent toothpaste, ocean liners and he even had a hand in the design of Saturn-Apollo NASA space project. Loewy affected the American consumer more than most in his time. And he did this not by creating totally new products but by making the familiar surprising. Sounds a lot like Apple’s approach doesn’t it?
While Apple benefits from creating hit products that are familiar but surprising, there are two conditions that need to be met before a company can adopt the MAYA strategy;
These two conditions need to be met otherwise you’ll be late to the party and your superior product will wallow in the graveyard of me-too competitors.
So what’s next for Apple? We don’t know. But we have some ideas. What we do know is that Apple’s next thing will be a product that someone else has familiarized or at least conditioned you and me to believe is possible. We know Apple eschews optimal newness. And we know it will be centered around our homes.
The important questions for you, as laid out by Derek Thompson in his excellent book ‘Hitmakers’ (where the idea for this blog post came from) are
How do you make something new, if most people just like what they know?’ What is the familiar but surprising product you are building that will help you capture market share?
If your industry meets the two criterion above, what is the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable product you’re building?
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