We have done a lot of research on synchronizing product and customer lifecycles and the processes that need to govern those to aid in the development of new product innovations. As Tom Peters says, there are only three options for new product timing – too early, too late or lucky. I’m interested in the trend now in lifestyle marketing, where you take a somewhat generic product or service and rebrand it for a niche segment. Here’s a great example of it from Nextel.

Boost Mobile is a new division of Nextel, a major wireless telecom company in the US. Nextel’s traditional marketing has been directed to business users who need their ‘walkie-talkie’ feature for colleagues communicating from different business sites, and need instant answers. Now Nextel has launched Boost – you might have seen some of their commercials airing, featuring elderly ladies speaking in tongues (of the young), with a new tag line of ‘Where You At?’. Boost’s services are almost the same as Nextel’s traditional offerings, except that they are blazing a new trail in cell phone design with today’s launch of the Boost Mobile i285 handset by Motorola. Offered exclusively from Boost Mobile, the new phone is designed to meet the lifestyle needs of today’s youth by featuring the first keyboard with a flame facade, and a discreet vanity mirror located inside the handset’s back cover. A mirror! How cool is that! Who would think that taking a rather standard looking phone, and putting a 2 cent mirror on it would make it cool. It does if your branding machinery is doing its job.

Neil Lindsay, senior director of product development at Boost Mobile says “This is not your parent’s mobile phone. Boost aims to complement youth wants and needs with fresh and innovative wireless products, and this phone includes a blend customized design details that reflect individual expression with convenience features that are uniquely suited to today’s active young wireless users.”

Of course the business model for Boost is the same as usual telecoms, and they do offer pay as you go etc features. But I find it interesting that with sufficient understanding of your target market and some help from an OEM to add a new faceplate and mirror, you can suddenly take a very unhip thing to a lifestyle statement. Given this trend though you can expect that the ‘tipping point’ cycle for things to be made cool to go faster, so consequently product development and marketing processes must speed up. Of course targeting different segments will have their own lifecycles, so your innovations must match their needs. For example, Nextel could target the seniors market with a new offering that makes their ‘walkie-talkie’ feature a centerpiece for security, and contact in event of an accident etc.

For the future, here’s my prediction. There will be companies whose core business model will be to interpret customer/product lifecycles and apply their ‘marketing machine’. They don’t actually engineer new products, but instead innovate around lifestyles and repackage/tweaks existing offerings to fit the needs of new customers.

Why do I think this? Because we’ve all seen that companies who are technically excellent at producing a new product or service, are usually deficient at being able to apply it to other needs or spaces. For example, large pharmaceutical companies ‘harvest’ new product from niche biotechs, and Silicon Valley anchors such as Cisco System and HP are highly efficient at watching a new technology grow and when it is just ripe for primetime they acquire it and plug it into their marketing processes. Extending that trend means there must be the need for core competencies in marketing innovations, and those competencies don’t have to necessarily live in the same company as makes the product.

Boost’s website is here – if you go to look at it, be prepared for funky music to come at you. Notice the complete lack of Nextel’s branding. Not so much brand extension, but brand delimitation. So in your organization, ‘Where You At?’ on targeting lifestyles?