Consumer tech and consumer staples (FMCG). Light years apart right?  What could Apple’s latest venture into wearable tech – (unofficially) codenamed iWatch – possibly teach us about innovation in FMCG?

One HUGE lesson.

Don’t be first, be better.

Like the iPhone, the iPod, the Mac, the Apple TV, and iTunes, Apple’s new smart wristband is not the first to market.  Instead, Apple has learned from early entrants to the emerging category – what works, what doesn’t, what could be better – using Fitbit, Fuelband and other competitors as prototypes from which to learn.  Spot Apple CEO, Tim Cook, sporting a Fuelband in interviews?  That’s R&D the Apple way.

Apple de-risks innovation by letting competitors fall on their faces, get bloody noses – and then steps in to do it right – with a premium priced option. It’s what the Lean Startup calls ‘Validated Learning‘.

The lesson for FMCG is that whilst Apple is systematically voted the world’s most innovative company, Apple virtually never launches a new category product.  If FMCG brands took a leaf from Apple’s innovation book they would immediately bin all new category innovation projects, and focus instead on growth categories – learning from the mistakes and successes of early entrants.

Apple is never first, it’s just better.  So the lesson for FMCG is don’t be first, be better.


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