Zepag has posted an interesting story in this Blogical shift (whatever that means) titled "From software to detergentware...", where he talks about the new wave of two-zeros (Web, SOA and whatnot) that is currently hitting our jolly technoworld.
The fact that marketing feels like creating such apparently-brain-dead new versions of old stuffs probably means that it is part of a natural motion in the world of selling stuff (be it concepts, software, soap, consultants or SOAP).
This reminded me of the excellent blog posts from Eric Sink about the necessity and strategies for closing the gap between the product and the customer (read part 1 and part 2). And I came to the conclusion that this gap does not really need to be closed but to be managed.
When the gap becomes too small, the customers are in a position of deep familiarity with the product, up to the point were they will stop considering it as something they have tought about and paid for, but a simple and commoditized part of their own life.
This is when you need to manage the gap: creating a new two-zero of something makes the customer in need (if not urge) of getting this new product. Instantly, it has become a new object of desire. In that sense, vendors really know what they do and how to influence the crowd we are.
Of course, nowadays, with the instant worldwide reactivity of the internet connected network of customers we all are, there is a serious risk of backfire. Still, this is a strategy that pays.
A few years ago, Microsoft understood it and decided to take the whole boardgame one step further: they decided to switch from a raw number version system to a vintage-like years version system. This was very clever because it allowed to make the gap easier to grasp for the human mind: who cares about running on Word 7 in 2006? Now if you say that this is Word 95, you immedialy feel in great need of upgrade!
Hence the gap between products and customers is not negative fact but a parameter that must be managed by marketing people.