Apple and Nike have joined together to servisize the running shoe — the ultimate product to service system shift. Now, I think this is a genius service, (for all the reasons the ipod and itunes is genius — the product is clearly wonderful, but it is the music service experience that makes the proposition winning), it seamlessly connects the product — in this instance a small pedometer that connects to your running shoe via your ipod — to the service — an online personal trainer that connects you to peer trainees (your 'social network' of course!). And it changes behaviours. Already 30% of my office have brought the product and are signed up for a training schedule they've set for themselves, inviting in others to compete or compare with their challenge. I think we could do the same for our 'footprint'. Partnering with Apple has enabled Nike to shift from a manufactured training shoe to a training service, which addresses the customers' need — to get fitter and healthier, together. The pedometer effect (aka the calorie counting effect in the 80's) has been intriguing me for a while: I think there is something in accounting for intangible use or consumption — like exercising or eating less — as a means of reinforcing behaviour change. Or even accounting for tangible consumption. Without these measures it's very hard to see the value of your efforts and or begin to rationalize the impact of your behaviours. And I think there's something in this for changing our attitude toward energy consumption. The problem with energy, and how much we seem to expend, is that it is invisible. Very few people are aware of the real value of items they purchase or the shower they take each morning in terms of its energy content. It's just not a known or thought about quantity and therefore we assume it is limitless. But could it be more visible?
I had an interesting conversation recently with a good friend of mine who has been following my ambition for green growth and learning small ways to make changes in her life. She'd picked up on a few small behaviours of mine that seemed to make sense to her, like not accepting plastic bags every time she purchased something because clearly they'll end up in landfill. But beyond this, she couldn't really see what she had to do with climate change and the looming energy crisis. And then over dinner I explained to her, in the simplest way I could, that absolutely everything we do consumes energy everything — including making and shipping her favourite bottle of Merlot to New York. I asked her to choose a colour and imagine that energy was that colour, so it was visible. I'm simplifying this story, but suffice to say she now buys her wine locally if she can and thinks about her consumption in a new way. It's just the beginning.
Now, I'm a runner and I cannot tell you enough the importance of 'counting' and the 'celebrating' your miles — most of the time in your mind, but if at all possible, sharing it with others. It's the same as counting steps (note, the phenomena of the pedometer) and counting laps in the pool. As soon as you count, you become aware and typically turn awareness into a behavioural response. (We had a 5km running challenge in the office for a while — the target was to run 5km in 20 mins and boy did I run faster and faster to achieve this. There is no way I would've done it if I hadn't of been counting and celebrating my successes with others). The same is shown to happen in another way when you record the amount of food you eat in a diary as a tool for dieting. You start eating less.
And this Apple/Nike service does exactly that. So I've been thinking about using this service paradigm to enable behaviour change in other areas of consumer lives with the objective of having a positive impact on our energy consumption and the waste we create. Here are a few examples; I think there could be more.
Smart domestic energy metering — you see in realtime what you use in the home has an impact on your energy consumption and gas bill
Energy statement - an independent energy that gives you a contextual lowdown on your energy consumption
Eco footprinting- account, record and earn credits for your recycling
"Ford's chief in Europe and head of its Premier Automotive Group, Lewis Booth envisions that 'in the next 10 or 15 years' consumers will become as aware of their annual carbon output as they are of their bank balance today"
As yet, most of these strategies have yet to be turned into really useful and desirable consumer propositions. live|work has been working with the Interactive Institute in Sweden to use realtime domestic energy metering in homes as a platform for a new energy services that reward reduced use. Like with the Apple/Nike example what you sell is the solution to the need — warm homes and a secure energy future — and through a number of service packages the money is made on selling reduced energy use, other domestic or family services and micro-generation, alongside supplying gas/electricity where needed. The model has been in place for industrial energy consumption for a while.
Where the Apple/Nike example frustrates me is that it is still rather tied to buying a product (the Nike trainer). Of course, you can make the service work using your own trainer, but it's really designed to fit on the Nike shoe with a special attachment. So, am I kind of forced to purchase a trainer I didn't really need.
But there are two really valuable lessons I think we can learn from this latest product-service system: the first is that looking to services to meet our needs (in this case fitness and social networking) is an exciting consumer growth area and one that potentially means selling less of what we don't really need (ie, more products) to impact the bottom line; the second is that accounting for intangible behaviours is a powerful tool for changing behaviours and there are many opportunities to build on this theme.
Written by Tamara Giltsoff