Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Upgrading Vs. Sidegrading

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.


Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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