If cufflinks didn’t exist and you invented them, would they succeed?
I’ve got one shirt in my closet with french cuffs, and as I looked at it, hanging there quite lonely, I got to thinking about cufflinks.
Cufflinks are arguably a nice way for men to wear jewelry, and they were no doubt functional back in the day. But it’s difficult to argue much of a utlitarian use today.
Yet they persist.
They persist because stamping them out completely is essentially impossible. They are an anachronism, part of a system that may never go away. Cufflinks.com The internet’s formalwear superstore can sell plenty of reversible nautical cufflinks (“What! you got me cufflinks that weren’t reversible!?”) because the shirtmakers support them by selling shirts with holes. If there were no holes, there would be no cufflinks. As long as there are holes, there will be a demand for them.
So if you’re trying to invent a product or service that requires the rest of the industry to put a hole out there for you to fill, good luck.
And if you can figure out a way to profit from an existing “hole”, you’ve got yourself a huge advantage.
Audible.com, for example, needed the world to make an MP3 player in order for them to succeed. What a crazy gamble! Fortunately, just in time, it happened. But now that the MP3 player is here, I bet some smart folks are going to figure out something else to put on an audio player… what about city walking tours, with local ads?