Whatever you think of the iPhone 7 and AirPods, you have to hand it to Apple’s head of marketing, Philip Schiller, for his explanation for why Apple decided to give the headphone jack the boot.
Sure, he could have said “thinner phone” or “one more piece of hardware for you to buy to boost our bottom line.”
Nope. Its single word explanation of the new wire-free headphone setup:
“Well, the reason to move on … really comes down to one word: courage. Courage to move on, do something new, that betters all of us. And our team has tremendous courage.”
We won’t make jokes because we can’t think of any new ones — Twitter has made them all already.
But Schiller’s waxing poetic got us thinking about courage.
And cowboys, because, as Karen Webster pointed out as the week began, the Wild West period of online commerce has reached an inflection point and all the payments cowboys and girls out there better saddle up.
And all this thinking about cowboys, courage and the rapidly changing world of commerce led us inevitably to Tim Gunn — this week’s undeniable winner of the courage and cowboy spirit inspiration award in the commerce space.
Then, perhaps you haven’t read Gunn’s editorial for The Washington Post this week, which is a shame.
Because Gunn, rather bravely, offers some good advice for people in fashion specifically and anyone working in commerce more generally.
Read on — we promise there is a commerce and payments lesson waiting on the other side.
No Shade Spared — Tim Gunn Thinks Fashion Design For American Women Is A Disgrace
For those unfamiliar, Tim Gunn is a design educator, author and long-time co-host of the television show “Project Runway.” He is best known for the catchphrase “Make it work.”
He is not a happy camper about the state of the women’s fashion industry in America, describing it as “bafflingly” unwilling to dress anyone who doesn’t share the proportions of a fashion model — basically 5’11″ and 100 pounds.
“I’ve spoken to many designers and merchandisers about this. The overwhelming response is, ‘I’m not interested in her.’ Why? ‘I don’t want her wearing my clothes.’ Why? ‘She won’t look the way that I want her to look.’ They say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike. Some haven’t bothered to hide their contempt.”
The problem with this line of thinking, Gunn noted, is that it is putting the issue on the wrong person. It isn’t magical or difficult to dress someone larger than a size 12; it is a design issue that people who are design professionals should be willing to take on.
And Gunn is spreading blame all over the place, noting that retailers from Nordstrom to JCPenney just don’t stock clothing outside of normal clothing ranges — thus giving designers no incentive to create it. If it doesn’t exist between a size 0 and a size 14, it barely exists on the rack. That isn’t aligned with the market, noted Gunn, since there are a lot more size 16 women in the United States by the numbers than there are size 0s.
But then again, designers like making those size 0s, since that’s the size the clothing was often created to be worn in. It’s a vicious cycle, Gunn noted, where blame mostly falls on the fashion industry that has bought into its own marketing on the overwhelming importance of thinness.
Gunn also had shade to throw at his employers at “Project Runway,” noting that the show for which he won an Emmy has “not been a leader” when it comes to making clothing more inclusive. He had special disdain for the “sort of progress” PR made by awarding the big season win to a plus-sized collection last year.
“I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout ‘prom.’ Her victory reeked of tokenism. One judge told me that she was ‘voting for the symbol’ and that these were clothes for a ‘certain population.’ I said they should be clothes all women want to wear. I wouldn’t dream of letting any woman, whether she’s a size 6 or a 16, wear them.”
And Gunn wasn’t quite done with the truth to power quite yet. His best and most universally applicable observation was his last: Refusing to dress anyone but the ideal customer at the ideal size isn’t just mean-spirited, shaming and lazy; it’s also kind of dumb.
It’s Unwise To Tell Your Customer What Size They Should Be — They’ll Go Somewhere Else
“Every season we have the ‘real women’ challenge (a title I hate), in which the designers create looks for non-models. The designers audibly groan, though I’m not sure why; in the real world, they won’t be dressing a seven-foot-tall glamazon.”
Gunn noted that, at the end of the day, the designer and retailer’s job is to sell clothes, and a refusal to sell clothes to consumers who actually exist (real women) is a stubborn refusal to make money. Consumers who categorize themselves as plus-sized consistently refer to themselves as under-marketed to. In a recent study, some 65 percent noted feeling “excluded” at most mainstream retail locations. The same set of customers also represented an overwhelming desire to spend more money — 90 percent said they would buy and spend more if more options were available.
ModCloth commissioned that study. It also doubled its stock of plus-sized options and saw sales spike 20 percent. Online startup Eloquii, a hyper-trendy plus-sized fashion site, grew its sales volume by more than 165 percent in 2015.
Someone is going to make that money, Gunn noted, and there is a lot of it to be made. Retailers and designers who don’t go after it are out of step with the times.
“Despite the huge financial potential of this market, many designers don’t want to address it. It’s not in their vocabulary. Today’s designers operate within paradigms that were established decades ago, including anachronistic sizing.”
And while Gunn is talking specifically about fashion retailers, he’s probably offering a lesson that can apply to all kinds of players in the payments and commerce ecosystem: Building for who you think the customer should be is much less effective than building for the customer that actually exists.
In the real world.
Courage, at its base, is having the guts to break the mold of the past and not staying put just because it’s more comfortable to stay there. Making headphones wireless isn’t really forward-thinking — they’ve been around for a while. Courage is about taking wireless and giving the consumer “that one more thing” that will have them leaping to their feet, eager to dive into a reinvented and reimagined world.
Microsoft launched a tablet almost a decade before Apple introduced the iPad. But it bombed because Apple made a tablet part of the everyday tech vocabulary — the early adopter who wanted the next new thing, the soccer mom who wanted to shop and Facebook on the sidelines and the grandma who wanted to FaceTime with the grandkids.
Courage was believing customers knew what they wanted and that Apple could build them the device to get there — and beyond.
It would have been easier to design to tech enthusiasts; it’s easier to design for runway models who are reed-thin and look good in anything. But Tim Gunn is right, and no matter where in retail you work, the lesson is clear: You can’t change the world if you don’t design for the world.
But doing that takes some real courage. The winners will be those who “Make it work.”
Source: http://www.pymnts.com – Mobility & Payments
Courage, Cowboys, Commerce — And Tim Gunn