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The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value

The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value

by Marco Bertini, Oded Koenigsberg


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How some firms are rewriting the rules of commerce by pursuing “ends”—actual outcomes—rather than selling “means”—their products and services.

Would you rather pay for healthcare or for better health? For school or education? For groceries or nutrition? A car or transportation? A theater performance or entertainment? In The Ends Game, Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg describe how some firms are rewriting the rules of commerce: instead of selling the “means” (their products and services), they adopt innovative revenue models to pursue “ends” (actual outcomes). They show that paying by the pill, semester, food item, vehicle, or show does not necessarily reflect the value that customers actually derive from their purchases. Revenue models anchored on the ownership of products, they argue, are patently inferior.

Bertini and Koenigsberg explain that advances in technology have made it possible for firms to collect “impact data” that tells them when and how customers use their products and how those products perform, and that firms can draw on this data to turn products into seamless services. New revenue models will enable transparency, accountability, and efficiency.
Bertini and Koenigsberg offer real-world examples of how companies in healthcare, transportation, education, and other sectors are already playing “the ends game,” describing, among other things, the successes of Dollar Shave Club, Rent the Runway, and “pay as you fly” insurance for drone flights.
Finally, they outline the challenges in adopting these new models, offering guidance on such issues as criteria for defining an outcome, concerns over data collection, and internal organizational obstacles.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262044349
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 09/08/2020
Series: Management on the Cutting Edge
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Marco Bertini is Associate Professor of Marketing at ESADE Business School, Barcelona.

Oded Koenigsberg is Professor of Marketing and Deputy Dean at London Business School.

Read an Excerpt

Would you rather pay for health care or better health? Would you rather pay for school or education? Groceries or nutrition? A car or transportation? A theater act or entertainment?
Paying by the pill, semester, food item, vehicle, show, and so on is a poor reflection of the value that individual and business customers actually derive from their purchases. Nonetheless, the idea that a company could be compensated for the quality of the outcomes it delivers, rather than the products and services it brings to market, would have been dismissed until recently as utopian academic theory. Reality called for a compromise, one that most organizations have practiced pragmatically for decades: make a living by selling the “means” to customers, and promise that the “ends” they desire will follow.
Recent technological advances are rewriting the rules of commerce by calling this compromise into question. Mobile communication, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, advanced analytics, and microtransactions are making the exchanges between organizations and customers more transparent. By now, most companies have the ability to record consumption events. In some instances, companies can also observe the value customers derive from their purchases rather than infer it at some aggregate level. These developments have empowered customers who struggle to understand what their money buys them to demand accountability rather than accept simple promises. Customers are no longer the passive price takers of yesteryears. Accountability both defines and widens the gap between organizations that can and want to compete on the outcomes that matter to customers, and organizations that are content with perpetuating the status quo.
Some of the firms that earn revenue by selling “means” dismiss this challenge, turning a blind eye and hoping that it is another passing trend. Others scheme to make life even more complicated for customers, making their prices, assortments, and other commercial decisions more ambiguous and thus less comparable across competitors. However, it is hard to justify these approaches as winning plays in the long run. The alternative, of course, is to embrace change and get to work.
The way we see it, accountability is no longer a fashionable marketing slogan. It is a strategic imperative. Progressive firms are collecting and capitalizing on what we call “impact data” in order to better understand when and how customers use their solutions, and how these solutions actually perform. In many sectors, the technology now exists to turn products into seamless services, to record usage occasions, and, significantly, to quantify performance at scale and with precision. These progressive firms are evolving to make commerce far more efficient than it ever was, and in so doing unlocking market potential and positioning themselves to capture the lion’s share of the tangible value that materializes.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword ix
Preface xi
Introduction: From Promises to Proof 1
I Context
1 Unfinished Business 13
2 Beyond Needs and Journeys 25
3 Leaner Commerce 37
II Models
4 Shaving, Rocking Out, and Looking Fabulous 47
5 Flying Hours, Wash Cycles, and Miles Driven 61
6 Laughter, Rocks, and Quality of Life 77
III Action
7 Committing to Outcomes 91
8 Breaking the Quality Paradox 101
9 Getting Up Close and Personal 111
10 Partnering with Customers 119
11 Making Your Move 131
Notes 143
Index 165

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