Posted by: brandextenders | December 29, 2012

Can 10% Really Make a Difference?

This has been one of my most-read blogs this year.

Somewhere in all the reading I’ve done over the years I remember an article discussing how taking something and making it 10% different could be a life-changer. The premise being that by somehow changing or tweaking a product already in the marketplace in small ways you could take something old and make it new again; create demand for a product that was new and improved.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and have come to believe it’s true. There are examples everywhere and I’ve listed a few ideas I think prove the point.

  • Ear buds: I’ve always loved listening to music with headphones, but ear buds were always a challenge. They never fit in my ear correctly, would fall out regularly and because they didn’t fit well, the sound was terrible. Finally a genius (not sure who) added a protrusion on each bud that fits snugly inside the ear called, oddly enough, in-ear. This change has given ear buds new life and created companies like SkullCandy who have embraced both the old and new in their business model.
  • Telephone handset – Did you ever consider answering a cell phone with an old-style telephone handset? Most people wouldn’t, but someone did and created a new product that’s become hip. Someone connected the handset with a cell phone in their mind and viola. The picture on the right takes it to another level with the retro handset, a charging base for the cell phone to sit on and a rotary dialing app for a smart phone. It’s almost like the old days!
  • Antimicrobial: Germs are everywhere and while some are good, many are bad and our society has become obsessed with fighting them off. Thus it makes sense that everyday products have taken up this fight by infusing antimicrobial agents into their stuff. It’s estimated more than 700 products use this technology now including common items like pens, mouse pads and even apparel. By taking something as simple as a mouse pad and adding an antimicrobial agent, they’ve created new demand for a product that might have reached its apex.
  • Apparel – A T-shirt is a T-shirt, right? Not when that T-shirt is a moisture wicking, antimicrobial protective shield. Let’s face it, T-shirts have been around since the days of Roman emperors (O.K., I exaggerate a bit!), but new properties that keep you dry and germ-free also give you reason to buy these newer fabrics. When I was young, polyester was considered a cheap alternative to cotton, but apparel manufacturers have turned that notion on its head. Polyester, under a variety of trade names, is now a sought after commodity.
  • Pencils: Did you know there was a National Pencil Day? Neither did I, but March 30 of each year is set aside to celebrate this icon of test taking. While the basics of the pencil remain as they always have, new versions have the graphite encased in plastic instead of wood and anything toxic in the paint or other components has been removed. Despite people’s infatuation with tablets and other new technology, pencils remain a hot commodity with sales in the U.S. up 6.8% last year.

So what’s the 10% in your life you might consider tweaking to achieve different results? Something related to work? Maybe your personal life or your children? Whether it’s generating more sales, losing weight, spending more time with your family or something else, think about how just doing something 10% differently might make all the difference. Or perhaps you can find a product that needs some updating and use the 10% rule to revamp it and find a whole new marketplace for it. Businesses have been built on less.

10% might not seem like a lot, but it could be enough to help you earn more, spend more time with your family or lose that extra 10 pounds. It seems true that 10% really can make a difference.

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