The Smithsonian is History: Losing to the Playbook of Wii


Ask any travel agent. The three keys to qualifying a travel customer are determining if they have the 1) desire, 2) money, 3) time.

You can generally presume that desire is present when the customer seeks you out to initiate the sale as I recently did with Smithsonian Journeys. Qualifications two and three - money and time - are adequately documented in Eric Lipp's regular surveys of the travel behavior of people with disabilities, Simon Darcy's seminal study that put this market on the map. A casual observation of the passengers on your cruise ship should give any doubter a hint that there is an underserved travel market among people with disabilities. Something major has shifted in the travel industry.

History will excavate the telltale remains of institutions that played possum through this transition.

To illustrate the power of this moment let me use a case outside travel & hospitality where Universal Design is literally "beating opponents to a pulp."

First, an underserved market was identified. It not only had no desire for the product but was typically scornful of it and professed to have no time for it whatsoever. What it did have was money.

And now Nintendo has a whole lot of that money instead.

Fergus Sheppard writes in the, "Maxine got her first taste of Wii - the name is Japanese for "everybody" - in the Gamestation store in Princes Street, as the much-hyped console went on sale in the UK."

OK, nice start. Give the product an inclusive name. (Unfortunately, the author is incorrect. The word is a transliteration of the English word "we" and not Japanese. Nihongo-o hanashi imasen - but I know at least that much Japanese.)

The article continues:

She is typical of the kind of customer the Japanese games giant wants to attract. Nintendo has purposefully designed the game to be tactile, spatial and social - qualities it believes will appeal to women. It has advertised the Wii across women's titles including Prima, Glamour, New Woman, Closer and Heat as a communal fun activity - a world away, it suggests, from the closeted world of the PlayStation or Xbox fanatic.

Good next steps: identify the target market; isolate their characteristics & preferences.

The games it comes with - tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing - involve standing and moving rather than the classic couch-potato position.

Classic strategy. Differentiate yourself from the competition.

Rob Lowe, Nintendo's UK product manager for home consoles, said: "The large majority of women don't play games at the moment, so we designed the controller so anyone can pick it up and play it; they don't have to learn 12 different button combinations and spend ten hours trying to immerse themselves in the game. We think women will play the Wii for shorter bursts of time and feel they have exercised a bit."

Hmmm, something from the Universal Design juggernaut here? A controller designed "so anyone can pick it up and play."

It's a bold marketing play to build a product for a customer who 1) doesn't want it and 2) doesn't have time for it.

It's a no brainer to build a travel product for a growing customer demographic that has all three - and actively communicates that it would buy more if not for an artificial shortage of product.

There are precedents that would allow Smithsonian Journeys to succeed - and an eager pool of candidates to fill one of their staff positions who have participated in Mobility International USA travel and leadership training.


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