The innovator’s guide to #epicfail

There are more than a few formerly cool businesses that must be wringing their hands at this point, wondering what on earth just happened.

Let’s start with the music industry – after years of being decimated by piracy and what was a painful category transformation to the extent that an entire category of high street retail no longer exists – to now giving away a U2 album FOR FREE and being met with widespread criticism. Wired magazine went as far as to call it “devious” and “worse than spam”.

And then there is poor Apple. Once revered for changing the world in which we live, now accused of abusing its position of power.  You can just imagine Bono and Tim Cook phoning up Mark Zuckerberg for pointers on just how to deal with such a fall from a state of cool grace. The correct response would be “Count your Money, that will make you feel lot a whole lot better”.

And that’s true – money they have lots of, and frankly it’s not going to go anywhere. And most of us will continue to use all of their products. U2 will placate its fans and sell out concerts to their aging fans. People are still queuing up for their iPhone 6. Though interestingly those queues have been called into question – watch this video – (you can decide for yourself how accurate it actually is!) Maybe over time it will decline, even disappear (just ask Nokia), but for now the sales will still be good enough for everyone to cash in and do just fine.

And while it should surprise exactly no one that U2 are no longer cool and the new iPhone will be nothing more than incremental, there are two insights here.

When it comes to tech, we’ve become incredibly accustomed to step changes. The incremental changes, however transformative they might be in the long run are met with disdain and even derision. If they come from big businesses, they can even be deemed to be #failures. And if that big company used to have credentials as a genuine challenger, that failure can be deemed to be #epic.

Which leads to the second insight: we really, really like the small guy. It’s Uber. It’s Airbnb. They changed relatively little things (I mean really, I can now push a button for a cab instead of raising my hand but still, it’s awesome right!).

All of this is good news for small business – the pain of knocking down doors, raising funds and breaking into a new market might all be worth it.  And for big business- it raises some interesting questions on how to go to market with innovation. Being seen to partner with smaller start ups and breaking away from their mega brands may be a far better strategy – providing people with the security they want, but also with the sense of new adventure that, it seems, only smaller players can provide. Continuing with a sense of borrowed cool you no longer possess will only backfire, leaving your increasingly ambivalent customers to continue, with or without you.*

*Author makes no apology for dad-joke U2 pun. If he’d had his way, there would have been a whole lot more.

This article originally appeared on www.switzer.com