As a young man in 2003 during the last flight of Concorde aircraft from New York to London, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fuss about an aircraft that was retiring and why people were very emotional about it. “If it is retiring, why can’t they build another one?” I asked myself. While writing my last article, ‘3 Reasons Customers resist innovative product,’ Concorde Supersonic Airline was one of the failed ‘innovative products’ I considered, and I discovered that Concorde supersonic aircraft was so good that it wasn’t profitable to build another one.
Concorde Supersonic airline was designed to redefine luxurious air travel, indeed it did. It was the only commercial aircraft that was twice as fast as the speed of sound, and it was able to cut an 8 hours journey down to 3 hours. It was an engineering marvel and a delight to the eyes. Its innovative features were never in doubt, and it broke every market barrier in the aviation industry, and set a standard no other commercial airline could compete with. Its engineering feat was awesome, and technically, Concorde was ‘perfect’. By the time it was ready for the market, about 16 companies placed orders for over 70 aircrafts however, only 14 were eventually built for 2 companies.
So went wrong? Strategy wise, the business model adopted by developers of Concorde led to its resistance by potential buyers. The developers were so focused on the engineering and technical power that they neglected the business aspect of the aircraft. In fact, ‘the aircraft was built by engineers, not entrepreneurs.’ Just like the Concorde, so many businesses today have great products with bad business model. In developing the business model Concorde miss out on:
Customer input in the development of the Concorde was low or non existence. According to a group led by Matt Hooks, “....rather than focusing on the needs of the customers in the aviation market, the developers of the Concorde focused on creating the market itself thinking of the customers second.” The result was a total rejection by would-be customers and even the two airlines that had them in their fleet struggled to keep them profitable. Many entrepreneurs are so excited about the feat their product can perform that they believe, ‘once it is good, customers will buy.’ They are product driven, and care less about the need of the user of such product. Your customers should be an integral part of your product development process. Your business model is never complete without consideration for customers’ input.
The major implication of not including customers in your product design process is that you may likely misinterpret the potentials of your market. The Concorde developers believed that their innovative product will automatically translate into huge customer market. They only defined their market as those who want to fly ‘Supersonic’ without considering if those who could afford it are sufficient to capture value for the organisation. The Concorde’s market was narrowly defined, and its market potential was wrongly assessed, and this affected the value of its market. Entrepreneurs that wrongly assess their market potential will end up misinterpreting their market and losing value to less competitive businesses.
The implication of focusing on performance at the expense of customers’ input and market potential in your business model is the likelihood of wrongly pricing your products. For Concorde, the price was too high that the customers were not ready for the cost that came with it. Innovative products must provide a tradeoff between value and price, product performance is not enough to keep you going in business for long.