The latest episode of Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders has a panel of musical artists who discuss how the new digital landscape is affecting the music industry. I was pleasantly surprised, although I probably shouldn’t be, about the marketing savvy of MC Hammer. He discusses how digital marketing is empowering artists to cut out the middle man and dramatically cut marketing costs for a new album launch. He also comments on how twitter can be a tremendous tool for artists because it can instantly reach thousands of loyal fans.
Featuritis can occur when product designers add so many features that the product becomes overly complex and difficult to use. In this awesome video by the talented David Pogue, (see opening parody about tech support) he explains how simplicity sells. He describes Microsoft Word, which has many many features that no one ever uses compared to Palm, whose CEO requires any task that takes more than 3 taps to be redesigned.
Pogue rationalizes Microsoft’s approach by what he calls the Sports Utility Principle, which suggests people like to be surrounded by unnecessary power. Consumers don’t need a lot of extra features, but they like having them in case they might need them someday. However, tech products that have been designed with the “cult of simplicity” approach like Apple have thrived lately and won over many formerly frustrated tech consumers.
I personally think this same approach should be used in naming tech products. Consumers must be scratching their heads over confusing tech terminology like SSRD, DLP, LCOS, and 1080i vs 1080p, that tell consumers very little about what differentiates it. Simplicity improves the user experience by making the core functions intuitive or obvious to use. Pogue argues that simplicity is the best strategy for maximizing customer value and is what customers want.
The Merchants of Cool is a great documentary about how marketers study the teen segment to find out how to sell to the largest generation of teenagers ever. In 2001 teenagers spent more than 100 billion and made their parents spend an extra 50 billion. The documentary discusses the ethics of marketing to this segment and how the messages big media sends to teens influences their social norms and self-image.