Product Launch

Companies Are Like People

Originally published on The Huffington Post UK

The Human Genome Project completed in 2003 gave us the miraculous ability to understand who we are through our DNA. And thanks to enterprising entrepreneurs, we now have tools to explore our own DNA and learn what our genes say about us: our origins, our coloring, our tastes and our propensity for certain diseases. Armed with this understanding, we can construct a lifestyle that is aligned with our genes to help us fight off the maladies that afflict our DNA type. 

Know your DNA and be a better you.

But just as people can understand much of who we are from our DNA, so too can companies. Like people, companies are organisms that reflect their creators, their environments, their obstacles, and their strengths. They carry a core instruction set that informs the actions and outcomes of their work. In short, they have DNA. Not chemical, biological DNA, of course, but what I call corporate DNA.

While human DNA is ineffably complex, its business equivalent is far simpler, made up of just three kinds of companies. That’s it: only three types of companies in the world, each with its own distinctive DNA. Just as I look the way I look because of my DNA and you look the way you do because of yours, companies are what they are because of their DNA, and every organization expresses the DNA of one of these types. 

Although it is less complex, each DNA type resembles its human counterpart: Mothers are customer-oriented companies, Mechanics are product-oriented companies, and Missionaries are concept-oriented companies. After having consulted for more than 30 years with hundreds of companies to help them find their optimal position in the market and tell their stories compellingly, I’ve come to the conclusion that all companies fit into one of these DNA types. I’ve also learned that knowing which type you are is extremely helpful in developing a go-to-market strategy that sticks.

All living species are influenced by a mixture of DNA and environment, and when it comes to corporate DNA, companies are no different. DNA affects a company’s culture; its structure; how it measures success; how it hires, trains, and rewards employees; how it allocates resources; how it frames its narrative; and how it decides what brand to send out into the world. DNA is the single biggest factor when it comes to identifying a company’s role and relevance in the market and determining its optimal positioning.

The key to maximizing competitive advantage is to pinpoint your corporate DNA and use it to your advantage, just like an athlete. The idea is to use your DNA to position your company in the market so that you can win. Your DNA and how it is reflected in your position should lie at the center of every single decision you make, from your go-to-market strategy, to the skill set you seek in your hires, to the way you invest precious resources. It is the foundation for all external messages and campaigns, from branding, to sales strategy, to web copy, to brochure design.

Knowing what you’re made of helps you make something of it.

Secret Number 2 to Branding Technology

I talked about the first secret to building a technology brand, aspiration, in my post last week.  I described aspiration as the emotional hook to get your target customers on the line.  The aspiration of your brand is indeed critical, but if you don’t follow it by delivering something meaningful, your customers will drop you like a hot potato.  Deliver something meaningful: sounds easy enough.  But how do you know that a new technology is meaningful?  And more importantly, how do you make sure it stays that way, so you can keep selling your stuff?

The more addictive a product is, the more meaningful it is.  Think of the addictive qualities of your smart phone, your Fitbit, your Facebook account, your Twitter feed, your Netflix views, your Pandora station, your favorite apps.  There’s something inside these products that makes you continue to come back to them and want more.  They are sticky.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 5.53.49 PMAnd that’s the second secret to branding technology: stickiness in the product.  Stickiness is a quality that, for customers, is simply too good to miss and too good to keep to oneself.  And if the stickiness produces the “network effect,” all the better.  It is stickiness that enables a product to go viral.

Don’t think this applies just to consumer products. B2B technologies need to be sticky as well, perhaps now more than ever.  In this BYOD world, you are selling your stuff to people, whether they are wearing an employee hat at the time or not. Products that are clumsy to use, don’t deliver value and create drudgery aren’t long for the B2B world.  They will be supplanted or disrupted by products that are easy and cool to use. If they aren't sticky, they'll be replaced by products that are.

viralHow do you get stickiness in a product? Sometimes (but rarely), it’s luck.  But it should be strategy.  In fact, it’s your job to make it sticky.  Of course you need to be able to identify the appropriate market, describe the product in the most compelling way, figure out how to go to market appropriately and then create some awareness.  Of course you need to connect your brand to the aspiration I talked about in my last post. But before you do that, you should be deeply engaged in the product itself, and build it on a complete understanding of the market and the target customer.  As a marketer or an executive, your job isn’t just to take the product from engineering, give it a good tagline, and then talk it up in the press.   Your job is to make the product sticky.  And to make it sticky, you have to know what the “main addiction” is and test and refine it until you get it right.  If you haven’t read The Lean Start-Up, it’s time to do so.

Here are ten questions you can ask yourself to check the stickiness of your product. 

  1. What is the main addiction?
  2. What is its addiction potential? Have you tested it?
  3. Is it ridiculously easy to use?
  4. Is the design or UI elegant and attractive?
  5. Does it align with a current trend?
  6. Does it continue to deliver more and more over time?
  7. Is it affordable?
  8. Does it create pride of association?
  9. Can it be easily shared with others?
  10. Does it produce a network effect?

If you know the main addiction of your product and understand that potential, and if you can also answer each of the remaining eight questions with a “yes,” knowing why you’ve answered that way, you are well on your way to having a sticky product and going viral.  Not so hard at all. Certainly worthy of aspiration.

The first of two secrets to branding technology

Spending three decades in marketing at the epicenter of technology has taught me a thing or two about how we think here in Silicon Valley and what makes us who we are.  "Innovate or die," as the saying goes.  But recently, I reached a new understanding, and figured out the two secrets to branding this stuff.  By “branding” I mean establishing an innovation in the marketplace and building a brand.  Which, of course, is the goal. Today, I'll share the first of those two secrets. But first a little background. We celebrate our engineers here in the Land of Innovation, but when these guys release their version or product or app or device, it’s the marketers who have to get traction with customers.  So how do you do that?

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 11.39.09 AMI think it’s important to recognize, first off, that technology people are different.  We like to try new things.  We embrace change. We participate in crowd-funding of projects and companies.  We early-adopt new devices.  And we have patience with failure, our own as well as others, their companies and their products.

Secondly, we must understand that a customer buying a technology product early in its lifecycle is a “technology person.”  Ok, she probably isn’t an engineer, or a technologist or a rocket scientist.  But you can bet if she’s laying out cold hard cash (or mobile payment of choice) for a product that is touting something new, she “gets it.”  She gets that she’s part of a grand experiment, a Beta tester of sorts, a guinea pig.  And she likes it that way. Being the first to try a new product, to show it off to your co-workers, to brag about waiting in line to get it is all cool.  If you’re a technology person.  In fact, it is so cool that it actually confers admission for you into a sort of virtual “club” for innovators.  And of course, if you’re in the club, the people with whom you hang are likely to be in the club as well so they will also think it’s cool.  Word of mouth ensues—the Holy Grail for technology products.

So, if you’re on the selling side of a new technology, it stands to reason that you will want to sell your widget to other members of the innovators club who will think it’s cool because it’s new, who will be patient with its functionality and who will tell their friends about it.

As a marketer, you’re going to want to capitalize on the natural order of things in this situation.   You’re going to want to get people to try your product and you’re going to want to create word of mouth among other technology people.  Because if you amass a circle of innovators who love your product and tell their friends about it, you will create a bigger circle of early adopters, and if you’re lucky and the product is sticky enough, the word of mouth you generate among early adopters will spread beyond technology people, outside the innovators club and into the real world.  At this point, you’re reaching what we marketers call the early majority, or the mass market.  Success!

But the question is always this.  How do I get members of the innovators club to pay attention to my new technology?  What makes it cool?

Here’s the first secret.  Aspiration. 

MatterhornThe reason innovators and early adopters are attracted to some products and services that are untested in the market is because in some way, they establish an emotional connection with the buyer, one that usually offers the promise of positive change.  The buyer believes that the product or service will change her life in some way and quite possibly the lives of others as well.  Remember, technology people embrace change.  That’s where the aspiration comes in.  If you build a brand that reaches out enough to be aspirational in nature, that promises to change the world in some way, you stand a better chance of attracting innovators and early adopters to it.  And of course if you are successful in attracting innovators and early adopters, you are more likely to make it to the early majority.

Oh, and one more thing.  Technologists innovate to change the world.  They think in terms of vision.  How will the world be different because I was here?  How will my product or service change the way people do things?  The way the world operates?  So if you’re a marketer trying to help a company get its innovation to market, remember that you’re not only selling to innovators and early adopters out there in the marketplace, you’re selling your marketing strategies to the very same kind of technology people you are trying to reach in the real world.  If you start with an aspiration, a goal of changing the world in some way, you will connect with your engineers as well as your target customers and set the stage for building a technology brand.

In my next post, I'll explain the second secret to branding technology. Stay tuned!

The Forgotten Marketing Basics

Elia Freedman has an interesting little rant, The App Store Problem Is Not Price, which has elicited a response by Loren Brichter in the comments and by Marco Arment here. In my experience, if you have to have people try your product to understand the differentiation from competing products, your positioning (and therefore your marketing) isn't fully baked. Or your differentiation doesn't matter to your potential customers.

That being said, it is a reminder of thinking through all aspects of marketing, especially if you plan on making your app available on a crowded place like the App Store or Google Play.

Let's use the old 4P's framework here.  Sure, Apple has locked down Place, but that just makes for an even playing field. It is what it is. Given Apple's inscrutable nature, to count on future changes in the App Store is irrational. As a former sales colleague still likes to say: "hope is not a strategy!"

The real question you should be asking yourself is what you doing with the other 3P's? Elia mention changing Product (differentiation) and perhaps changing Pricing, but then goes off and complains about Loren Brichter and Marco Arment (yes, I'd say that calling what Marco has an "echo chamber" is a bit pejorative), which is more about Promotion.

I'd say yes to all of the above. Don't count on the App Store to change - make your product truly differentiated (and that doesn't mean just layering on "cool," but useless features) and do proper promotion. Marco has invested a lot of time and energy in his blog and podcasts, which, by the way, are forms of promotion.

Yes, it's all about taking care of your marketing basics. By not addressing your Product, Promotion and Place, your Price will indeed suffer.

Why In-Company Incubators Aren't Working… Yet (Part 3)

239px-Brown_Leghorn_rooster_in_Australia This is part 3 of a 3-part series.  <<Part 1      <Part 2

In this three-part series, I'm addressing the topic of why in-house incubators don't necessarily work, and specifically answering the question about whether organizations should entrust innovation to their entire organization or just to an elite team, incubator style.  The answer is, it depends on where your organization is in the three-part innovation process.

In my first post I explained this concept, and covered the first phase, Ideation.  A few days ago I covered the second phase, Validation.  Today, I'll tackle the one that seems to be most comfortable for enterprises and startups, and yet also the failure point for  many of them: Execution.

Once your idea has been validated, it's time to start thinking of bringing that idea to market like building business. Here is where a lot of organizations make the mistake of putting the nascent product or service in a current business unit and letting them run with it. After all, now that it's a product with a defined market, you should just treat it like every other product in your portfolio, right?

Well, sort of.

Sometimes, your new innovation will inherently play by a new set of rules, a set that doesn't apply to your existing products.  These new rules need to be identified and dealt with -- through permissions, process, skill sets, etc -- as the innovation is developed and delivered.

To explain this more clearly, I'll offer a story from my own experience, when I was at PeopleSoft managing the eProcurement product. There definitely was a market (thanks to Ariba and CommerceOne), and there was traction in the growing number of customers that we had. However, there was a lot of catching up to do with what the market expected, but we were constrained by product development processes designed for maintaing something like Accounts Payable and General Ledger in a 12-18 month product cycle, while our more nimble competitors were able to ship in less than half that time. It felt like we were competing with the proverbial one hand tied behind our back.

To get around our constraints, we had to break the rules and ship new functionality when we weren't' supposed to (long-time customers may recall version 8.0 SP2) and make PeopleTools dance in ways it wasn't designed. I credit the engineering team and the creativity of their manager, MJ Guru (now at Workday) for making this all work. He had just enough of a rebellious edge to make it work without getting fired.

The lesson here is that this innovative product had to iterate and add functionality faster than our more mature products like AP and GL. It also was a new kind of solution for PeopleSoft - one meant for all employees to use without training, not just people in the back office. It was different, and playing by the rules set by a more mature product line would have killed the product if it weren't for the team that wanted it to succeed.

Of course, every new product can't require a new organization to be created. It wouldn't work. What companies should consider doing is creating some sort of "half-way house" for products that are still in the early stage to allow them to iterate quickly for the first year or two. Just because you have traction and have validated the solution does not mean that you have a complete product and are finished learning. Far from it. In fact, from my experience, the amount of learning grows exponentially as you get more customers and start receiving more pointed feedback from people using your product every day.

In the end, every product and solution has its development "supply chain" and its point on its lifecycle in addition to having an affinity to other products that have the same economic buyer and market. For companies looking to launch new products and become innovative, it's not only about coming up with the next great idea, but also knowing how to make it work with the organization that you have.

<< Part 1: Ideation      < Part 2: Validation

 

Get in touch with SeriesC to talk with us about how we help clients navigate the innovation process: team@seriesc.net

Why In-Company Incubators Aren't Working… Yet (Part 2)

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This is part 2 of a 3-part series.  < Part 1       >>Part 3

In my last blog post, I discussed Ideation, the first of three phases that make up the innovation process. In many organizations, innovation efforts are most intensely focused on coming up with great ideas, and I can't blame them. Pie-in-the-sky thinking is great fun and, let's face it, there are a lot of ideas out there that seem feasible. And it is a great way to drive employee engagement and get them thinking about innovation on a regular basis.

Ideation, however, is only step one in a three phase process, and the phases matter when you're trying to decide who to involve, when, in bringing innovation to life. This second phase is crucial, and many organizations skip this part of the process. It is incredibly important that these ideas go through Validation.

Innovation ProcessAh yes. Validation. "Of course we validated our ideas! We built a whole business plan! A customer asked for it! I mean, there's lots of opportunity in the market - let's invest big!"

Well, that's one way to do it.

The important thing to remember is that business plans are built on a foundation of hypotheses -- and those hypotheses need to be tested and validated before any significant investment can be made. Many experienced entrepreneurs know that no business plan survives intact all the way through its journey to the first customer delivery, even ones written by smart folks with tons of research behind them. Heck, if it were that easy to just jump on great ideas, investors would have a better track record in picking which startups to fund.

Here is where big companies can learn from what's going on in the startup world. Everyone is talking about Lean Startup - heck, even the Harvard Business Review published an article from Steve Blank, who you could say is the godfather of the movement along with Eric Ries. The beauty is, what this movement advocates is not new at all. Lean Startup says you should talk to your customers. Get out of the building. Put your hypotheses to the test.  Do it quickly, learn, and repeat.

What is new is the easy availability of your potential customers, and the speed with which you can test your hypotheses with them and learn from them. The Internet has democratized access to your potential market, whether it's consumer or B2B. The old way was doing phone surveys and focus groups, which is tedious and often times difficult to get a good sample size. With a lot of web-based tools out there, you can test your ideas and put surveys up to quickly validate your concepts. (One of our team at SeriesC would gladly talk with you about the tools we recommend most.)

It is in this validation phase that organizations should start sheltering the innovation process from the rest of the organization. The sole purpose of a small, focused validation team at this point should be to validate each idea's underlying hypotheses. In other words, test the idea to see if it fits the market. The mandate for the validation team should not be to timebox the build process of an idea and model the revenue it will contribute, business impact it will have, revenue it will yield in year 2, etc. How could even the best innovation team nail those things if you aren't first certain the idea passes the test of validating its underlying assumptions? Indeed, many of an organization's best initial ideas may not pass this phase, and therefore must either pivot or shutdown. And that's ok, because the goal here is to learn before you invest expensive resources.

When we at SeriesC coach clients on the innovation process, we often get the question, "how will we know when an idea is validated?" It often depends on the market, product and time between iterations. We've seen it be as short as a few months and sometimes up to 18 months.  Here are three tips to keep your process moving:

  1. Be precise. Make sure you're identifying the right hypotheses -- in other words, asking the right questions -- and measuring the right things.
  2. Design your tests well.  Design them purposefully to measure those right things, and to learn as much as you can in as little time as possible.
  3. Iterate. This idea is sometimes called "fail fast," but I don't like that phrase because it misses the learning aspect of it. Failure connotes lack of progress, which you should be hoping to make with each iteration.

I know that taking time for the validation step is  uncomfortable for large organizations that are relentlessly driven by Wall Street to grow revenue and be predictable about it. That's why it is even more important to have this testing and validation outside of the mainstream processes. And you know what? Your startup competitors are doing just that.

Part 1: Ideation     > Part 3: Execution

 

Large Companies: Are You Losing Your Innovation Mojo?

  hipster

Leaders in enterprises, is "disruption" keeping you up at night? If so this post is for you.  Sometimes it feels as though the only companies getting attention these days are startups.  That today's established companies are dinosaurs and, except for a handful of large companies who are consistently succeeding – the rest are increasingly at risk.   If you fear that you are drifting toward the latter category, this blog is for you.   It might require a change in how you look at your people and how you get things, especially product development, done.   I am here to offer encouragement.

Let's start with three fundamental truths: 

  1. First, I hope we can all agree that the primary role of a company is value creation.  Yes, companies need to create products and services.  Yes, they need to engage and 'delight' customers -- even build communities of interest sometimes.   But these are all business model decisions in the context of some value creation system.   He or she who creates and monetizes the most value wins.
  2. Second, barriers to creating value have never been lower.   If your company's value is either created or enhanced "digitally" ( its becoming increasingly difficult to find one that isn't these days), your world has been changing around you. You have to move - fast.
  3. Third, the path to end-users has never been more direct.  Almost everyone has a smartphone.  Almost everyone is a part of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - pick one or two.   And they all get the news and information they want from Google.  There is no longer good reason to allow others between you and those for whom you are creating value.

What does all this mean?  Well, for one, small companies -- startups, more specifically -- have some important inherent advantages over big ones. They have not institutionalized business processes made obsolete by today's "401(k) world," as Thomas Friedman calls it.  In his recent NYT opinion piece, Friedman says that, "more people can start stuff, collaborate on stuff, learn stuff, make stuff (and destroy stuff) with more other people than ever before."   As Friedman points out, this has all happened in the last ten years or so, and many of us are not well suited to succeed in these new operating conditions.

Startups don't have to "unlearn" or "work around" the old ways of doing things.  They can pivot quickly on feedback gleaned from real prospects in real purchase situations in real-time.

So, what's a large company to do?

It all begins by remembering that the only reason for your existence is to create value.  In this context, your role as an organization is to efficiently do two things:

1. identify and qualify new value-creation opportunities, and

2. rapidly deploy the business models to monetize them.

How to identify new value creation opportunities

With respect to the first imperative, large companies do have an advantage: a highly attuned sensory network of employees and partners, all focused on today's business, channels, customers and everything we do to create value for them.

Think of them as thousands of iron filings through which a big magnet has been pulled. No other company has a collection quite like yours.  And it got you where you are today.  You just have to employ it more efficiently in the context of identifying and qualifying business opportunities.

This is where 'innovation crowd-sourcing' or 'social problem-solving' comes into play.   Treat these communities as an idea-generating asset - one which can be systematically harvested for new value-creation ideas.  They are smarter and more attuned than you think.  In other words, the time when all the good ideas come from the strategy team at HQ is well behind us.

How to rapidly develop new business models

On the second imperative, big companies need to harness the principles of Lean Startups:

  • Trade in 3-year business plans for Lean Canvases.
  • Cultivate a culture of Testing Hypotheses.
  • Quickly deploy Minimum Viable Product prototypes.
  • Employ the Build=>Measure=>Learn cycle.
  • Encourage fast failure and know how and when to Pivot.

In short, start treating your employees like entrepreneurs.  Give them the tools, training and environment to behave like a part of your value-creation system.  (We can help.)  Remember, the world hasn't changed in favor of more nimble start-ups.  What has changed are the conditions for success. There is nothing keeping you from being a part of that change, right?

Embracing Lean Startup Philosophies as a Product Manager

feature-57-the-lean-startup-book-pop_10909You've heard of Lean Startup, but you might be wondering what does it have to do with me as a Product Manager in a larger organization. Failing fast and pivoting sounds detrimental to my career, right? There's an interesting thread in a LinkedIn Product Management group  on the breakdown of Product Management activities. As you can see from my postings, my take is that the percentage breakdown in allocated time depends on a lot of things - maturity of the product, organization, and so forth. However, the list of activities is actually pretty good. The growing consensus is that a lot of time should be spend in understanding market, industry and competitive research.

That got me thinking about how to get the information needed to reach that understanding. While they might never admit it, so many PMs spend a lot of time doing this kind of research from within the four walls of their office or cubicle, primarily reading analyst reports and the Internet. Sure, they talk to current customers and hear from sales people, but that's the extent of their "research."

Lean Startup  has become the next big thing for entrepreneurs, who are attempting to implement the model with various degrees of success. Steve Blank is the godfather of the movement, which stresses taking an iterative, scientific approach to developing your product to ensure it meets customers' needs. Of course, the movement is now getting some pushback, and more mature companies with existing products have questioned Lean's relevance to their business.

(Not to get too existential, but to those companies who think they are beyond using Lean Startup: is your product without market traction really a product?)

However, if you step back for a moment, what the Lean model is basically telling you is to get out of your cube and find out first hand what's customers really want and need in a methodical, data-driven way to build and maintain a successful product. The key is understanding that managing a product or solution is always an exercise in making decisions with incomplete information. Lean is a reaction to the same issues developers faced with waterfall that eventually created agile development and addition of scrum to the technical lexicon.

Lean : Product Management :: Agile: Engineering

Of course, Lean philosophies can be abused as much as agile. How many times have you heard that there's no design or documentation because "we're agile?" If the only concept people understand about Lean is "pivot," then they're missing the whole point. Lean is not just about pivoting. It's about getting out there and getting as much information as often as possible to make better decisions. As with everything else, it's how you use the concepts, not a rote application of ideas that may or may not be relevant.

With cost-effective tools and approaches to gathering information and testing assumptions, Lean philosophies can be embraced by all product managers in both consumer and B2B looking to become more innovative or to gain marketshare in a mature market. How can you not do this?

"BIC Pens for Her" Get Virally Skewered: A Lesson for Innovators, in Ink

71r4xl7KJ6L._SL1300_Thanks to hilariously clever Amazon reviewers and then bumps from Ellen DeGeneres and the Huffington Post, there has been a lot of buzz over the past few months (popping up again today via George Takei on Facebook) about BIC's questionably appropriate "Pens for Her," boasting a "thin barrel to fit a woman's hand" -- black ink pens in pretty pastel colors, "elegantly designed just for her!" Does anyone think that BIC knew its target market well when it launched this endeavor? Anyone?

Here's how BIC's target market, indeed, is reacting, in the form of the most popular Amazon reviews from adult females:

"Since I've begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approchable...." - Tracy

"I don't know what I've been doing all my life writing with men's pens." - Kels

"I can't find a switch to turn it on, and it didn't come with batteries. This is not the "for her" product I was expecting. At all." - M

"I was elated to find this product, but I think it should cost 24% less than Bic for Men to adjust to my delicate feminine salary. As a secretary in the typing pool I would be able to buy so many more pens for me and my friends if these sparkly pastel gems were less expensive!" - Madeline

The snarky reviews, which number over a thousand and come from both women and men, are hilarious but only thinly mask an underlying vitriol, bordering on disbelief at the company's cluelessness. Perhaps worse for BIC, this is coming at a time when women-as-seriously-equal issues are prominent in the marketplace, bouyed by a leaning-in Sheryl Sandberg.  And since Ellen DeGeneres' show in late 2012, it just keeps coming back around, now in month six.

Here's an easy lesson this teaches for anyone bringing innovation to market: You need to achieve product/market fit. It is critical.

  • Talk to real target customers about what they want. Get out of your offices. Ask them. If they don't want what you have...
  • Ask yourself, "have I identified the wrong target customers? Or do I need to adapt my innovation to better meet my target customers' needs?" And then act accordingly, repeating the previous step until you get it right. If you don't know the answer...
  • Consider failing fast (but protect yourself by avoiding failing in front of millions); consider also spending a dollar now on market testing to avoid wasting major money on a failed launch later.
 You can write this one in ink. Pretty purple ink or straight-up black.

Google Reminds Us That Technology Marketing Is Different

Brands Google Many people understand that tech marketing is different than marketing other products and services, but sometimes it takes a big event to remind us why.

As I'm sure you've heard, Google has announced that it's scrapping Google Reader in July. I'm sure that it wasn't a rushed decision by the executive team, and they probably had oodles of data to back their decision. Google has also been sunsetting their non-core products ever since Larry Page ascended to the throne, so the concept behind spring cleaning wasn't new.

Their unforced error was not understanding one of the key tenets of technology marketing, which is that customers have to buy into the future of the product. Consumer packaged goods companies are able to test market their goods and pull things from the shelves whenever they want. It doesn't matter to McDonalds customers that the McRib they're consuming at the moment might not be available to them next week -- at least, not in their decision to buy it now.

Technology companies don't have that luxury, especially for products that could become fundamental to the workflow of a user. Google Reader became the de facto standard for syncing RSS feeds across multiple applications and devices after Google killed off the desktop RSS reader market. Now that they have put out to pasture a perceived fundamental service, users have the right to question the longevity of anything that Google puts out.

That harsh light is being put on their recently launched Google Keep, an Evernote competitor.

Google Keep? It'll probably be with us until March 2017 - on average Sorry Google; you can Keep it to yourself The Google Graveyard

and my favorite from Pinboard on Twitter 

Google will need to rebuild the trust it gained from its loyal user base if they are going to be able to launch the next big service. It also provides an opportunity by its direct competitors (e.g., Microsoft, Yandex) and focused companies (e.g., Evernote, Flipboard) to gain mind- and marketshare from Google.

What Google should have done is did one big spring cleaning and moved forward. Instead, they are now leaving their users wondering if they should rely on Google Drive. Ongoing uncertainty is the last thing you want your users to have.