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strategy and business
 / Spring 2007 / Issue 46(originally published by Booz & Company)


Recent Research

Grodal, applying these factors to the nanotechnology industry, says that the emergence of the sector began with the futurists. In 1986, Eric Drexler coined the term nanotechnology in his famous book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which described a future of molecule-sized machines that manufacture goods from the “bottom up,” atom by atom.

Drexler’s vision included such innovations as microscopic robots that would float in our blood and remove plaque. The media embraced his ideas. But at the time, the author was still a doctoral student, and mainstream scientists viewed his concepts as little more than science fiction.

Government officials, though, viewed nanotechnology as a way to increase federal funding for science and engineering and an opportunity to demonstrate political vision. In 2000, President Bill Clinton alluded to the potential benefits of advanced nanotech research in his State of the Union address, claiming that it could “revolutionize the 21st century in the same way that the transistor did the 20th.”

Out of this grew the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which assigned well over $1 billion to nanotechnology research between 2001 and 2004. Since then, Congress has passed the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, providing even more funding. NNI predicted that nanotechnology would be a $1 trillion market by 2015. That prediction, in turn, has attracted consultants, lawyers, and venture capitalists to the new field.

Meanwhile, the initially skeptical mainstream scientific community was won over by the promise of federal funding, the researchers note. This led to a widening of the definition of nanotechnology as scientists and entrepreneurs began to slide their research in all fields of molecular computing and machine design, including microfluids and microelectronic mechanical systems, under the nanotechnology umbrella. The boundaries of nanotech are still fuzzy today, but without a doubt, the industry has officially been born.

Me 2 Brands
Marco Bertini ([email protected]), John T. Gourville ([email protected]), and Elie Ofek ([email protected]), “Branding Successive Product Generations,” London Business School Center for Marketing Working Paper Series, Working Paper No. 06-501.

These words are being written on a computer using Windows 2000. We also own a Palm III, wear Air Jordans (2005 edition), and propel balls down fairways using Callaway’s Great Big Bertha. For successful brands, the name of the follow-up product is often as simple as A, B, C, or one, two, three. The Godfather begets Godfathers Part II and III as assuredly as one series of Mercedes S-Class follows another.

But how do consumers regard such changes, and how do they perceive more radical renaming? These questions are posed by Marco Bertini, assistant professor of marketing at London Business School; John T. Gourville, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School; and Elie Ofek, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

They observe that there is a continuum of product naming. At one end is the repeated use of an existing name — they cite the Cadillac Coupe deVille as an example — and at the other end is the introduction of entirely new names, such as Sega’s Master, Genesis, and Saturn game consoles. More commonly, though, companies simply add a new descriptor (such as Apple’s Mac OS X Cheetah, Puma, and Jaguar), a new number to match each edition (Windows), or a new degree (Callaway’s family of big and bigger Bertha golf clubs).

In their research, the authors asked 78 business school students to consider the hypothetical case of a series of color printers produced by a consumer electronics company. In one case the name of the product was changed after its fourth generation. In another, the naming remained consistent from the beginning; model 2300W was followed by 2400W, and so on. The authors found that when a name change was introduced, people assumed that the product was more substantially changed than when model numbers were altered according to a pattern.

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