from the Embarrassed-About-Our-Own-Customers dept
Mobile Health is a growing trend in the mobile application industry. There is a lot of interest around the potential to use mobile devices as medication reminders, and as local hubs of a Personal Area Network (PAN or BAN for 'Body') which can relay body sensor data to a central system, or medical personnel. Imagine a glucose sensor affixed to a diabetic tracking real-time blood sugar levels and relaying those to a doctor or a parent. With that, the MobileHealthNews blog has sprung up to cover the sector, and I read a good interview there with Jitterbug CEO David Inns. Jitterbug makes a phone that is pictured at the preceding link, which is designed to be easy to use for seniors, and provides associated services which older subscribers may find useful. Good. I have a lot of respect for a good segment strategy.
But when I saw them at trade shows, Jitterbug managers would say: "No, we're not just for older people, we're really for anybody who wants a simple experience." I reply "No, you're not. You boast bigger keys, a wizard interface, simple Yes No buttons, an audible dialtone, a three button model, hearing aid compatibility, operator assist, one touch 911 calling, and large fonts. Ergo, you're targeting seniors." They would deny it, so I'd pursue, "OK, so where's your marketing spend. I've seen you in AAA magazine, but haven't come across your ads on MTV yet. Where else do you advertise?" Knowing full well they advertise in the AARP magazine and launch products at AARP conferences [pdf]. But no soup for me. For years, I couldn't get the Jitterbug reps to admit that it was a phone for old people. I'll give them points for rigorous PR training, and keeping on message, but I don't agree with the strategy.
I get it. Great Call (Jitterbug) has decided that they don't want to look "uncool" by identifying their segment. But I'm not sure that is good business. If you're embarrassed about your customer base, are you likely to be serving it as well as you could? Is it that you are worried about scaring off young potential customers because your product "smells like old people"? Get over it. Most young people don't want a Jitterbug, just as most seniors wouldn't want a Nokia N95. If you completely believed in market segmentation, you'd get over yourselves, and get real.
That's why the recent interview with the CEO was such fun. The potential revenue of the Mobile Health sector is a powerful lure, but it's hard to play a central role when you are in denial of your attractive customer base of aging baby boomers. As a result, Jitterbug is scrambling to finally admit -- nay, boast of -- who their customer base is. CEO Inns says, "So many examples of wireless health services are being shown running on iPhones,... [is opportunity] really with the 30-year-olds? ...If you want to get serious about tackling the healthcare problems in this country where they actually exist, which is in the 60+ age group, then you should be working with us to develop services that are easy to use so they get compliance."
Jitterbug has built a community that has value, but has distanced itself from that community. That's not the way to open up opportunities in the 21st century, and that notion just clicked back at the Jitterbug Boardroom. Thank you, Jitterbug. It's taken about four years, but you've finally admitted who your customers are. Was that so bad?