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Upgrading Vs. Sidegrading

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In my opinion there are two types of innovation: upgrades and sidegrades. An upgrade is an innovation which sees a discernible improvement over the previous product or service.  A sidegrade, on the other hand, sees an improvement in one area but has sacrificed functionality or quality in some other area.

While both are considered innovations, the difference may have a significant impact on how marketers market a product and how a market will perceive it. I suspect some marketers either do not know, or choose to ignore, the difference.

For example, a company recently released a “new, improved formula” for its fortified drink.  My question is: the formula may be new, but is it really improved?  By tweaking various ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean that it has improved – in fact consumers have complained that it no longer tastes the way it used to.

Consider these (I’m going on a limb here with these examples):

  • Dual Core processors – upgrade (better performance).
  • 3G phone and networks – upgrade (larger bandwidth and faster data transfer).
  • iPod – upgrade (took an mp3 player and added sex appeal).
  • Diet Coke – sidegrade (less than 1 calorie, but tastes different).
  • Condoms with spermicide – upgrade (provides better protection).
  • Healthier char kway teow cooked with vegetable oil instead of lard – sidegrade (some consider it a downgrade!).

Feel free to correct me on any of the above.

So the next time you innovate on your product and service, consider if it is a true upgrade or only a sidegrade.

PS: Is Windows Vista an upgrade or sidegrade? I’ll let you decide.