When a Product Tries to Be TOO “Easy to Use”

<< Sigh. >>

Yesterday, I wanted to transfer all the photos that my daughter has on her digital camera to my hard drive, so she could email one of them to her teacher.  The camera is fairly new to her, so I had never had to do this before.

In my dream world, plugging a camera into a USB port would be the same as plugging in a flash drive — you would see a whole bunch of files, and you could pick the ones that you want to grab.  (Similar to how I wish iPods would work.)

Alas, that is not the case.  As soon as the camera is plugged in, it makes your computer go to a web site to download an application.  You CANNOT retrieve the images from the camera without doing this first.

I already feel like someone’s takin’ me for a ride.

THEN, once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, and even before you have the actual photos off the camera, Kodak asks you to log into facebook.  Did you hear me?  LOG INTO FACEBOOK!!!  I presume they think that everybody wants to share every pic they take, with the entire planet, instantly.  Well I don’t.  And neither does my daughter.

I did NOT log onto facebook, and the Kodak app was mad at me, but let me continue nonetheless.  So I accomplished my goal (eventually).

For a complete neophyte, I can see how this might be a way to help them out.  But it just smells bad.  It’s like if they gave an appendectomy to every human who walked into a hospital.  Sure, you may need one someday, but MAKING you do it isn’t the right way.

Believe In What You Market

I must have watched the video in my last post about a dozen times now.  The one thing that astounds me is how every single musician is so obviously invested in the production of a WORLD CLASS product.  You can see it in the (otherwise placid) pianist and bassist, and it’s obvious in the JOY that the singer and violinist are getting when they hit their notes perfectly.   Perhaps I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, or maybe mainstream artists don’t get this much pleasure about producing perfection, but I would MUCH rather watch this sort of music video than one with “high production value.”

It reminds me of when I was Product Manager/VP Marketing  at Maximizer in the ’90s.  I didn’t just chant the mantra about how great our software was.  I KNEW IT TO BE TRUE.  If I could have been standing in every aisle in every Future Shop in the country when somebody was looking at shrink-wrapped contact management software, no-one would EVER have purchased our competitor.  A 90-second chat with me, along with the (semi-maniacal) look of certainty in my eyes, would have convinced them that I was NOT dishing bulls**t.

It’s the same with the musicians in the video, and it’s the same with Steve Jobs, and it’s the same with the Dalai Lama (or insert your religious leader of choice here).  They all KNOW they’re giving you the straight goods, at the highest quality possible.   And you can see it in their eyes that they’re doing it for YOU, not themselves.

That’s quality marketing.

(But it requires a quality product.)

Trade Shows – Why Do We Let the Money Walk By?

I was at a Trade Show yesterday, and it was exactly like the roughly 200 other ones I’ve been at during my lifetime.  Sure, there was a lot of stuff being shown, but there was very little trade going on.  Here’s what Messrs. Merriam and Webster have to say about the practice:

Main Entry: trade show
Function: noun
Date: 1895

: a large exposition to promote awareness and sales of especially new products within an industry <a computer trade show>

Note that they’ve seen fit to include “sales” in the definition.  In my experience, very little sales or sales-related activities actually happen at trade shows.  The reasons for this are manifold, and one of the main ones is, on the surface, nonsensical:  the people usually sent to man the booths at trades shows are salespeople.

Salespeople tend to be hunters, while marketers should be gatherers (or even better, nurturers/farmers).  So a sales person would rather track a mammoth 10 km over the tundra for the 5% chance that s/he might stick a spear in some lethal manner into the beast. Marketers should prefer to stay at home and sow the field, pick the fruit, milk the goats, set the snares, collect the eggs, etc.  Both are viable survival strategies: if the marketer gathers enough protein every day to feed the family, or the salesperson kills a mammoth that feeds the family for 20 days, it’s a wash.

But what if you’re at a trade show, and there’s a HERD of mammoths walking straight up the valley?  In my experience, the salespeople are either, a) not “there” because they’re chasing some mammoth 10 km away (whether on their cell phone, or in some out-of-the-way place like the back of the booth), or b) not engaging the herd because their skills are focused on killing single mammoths; not confining, evaluating, flagging, or tracking entire herds of them.  Marketers (at least good ones) see the herd and think, “How can I pick the best ones to send my hunters after?”

The techniques that can be used to overcome these innate behavioural patterns, and actually make going to a trade show WORTH IT, are discussed in the following recorded seminar.

If you would like to hear me talk for 17 minutes about Effective Trade Show Attendance along with some pretty useless PowerPoint slides (hey – I was working for IBM – they DEMAND useless PowerPoint slides), you can watch this presentation.  You’ll have to enter your name and email, but it loads pretty quickly.

The Apple Brand is Sticky

apple_logoFollowing on to Friday’s post about my frustration with getting my daughter’s iPod up and running, I have to dish some mad props to the Apple marketing people.

Apple’s prowess at design is not anything new.  The iPod came in a beautiful little jewel case with a Set-up Guide that Garr Reynolds would be proud of: about 6 cms square, 16 pages, 2 – 8 words per page, simple graphics, and lots of white space.  The iPod itself is also lovely, as is its docking station.

But it was the other thing that came in the package that is marketing brilliance.  It was a small sheet with two cute-as-buttons Apple logo stickers.  As we all know, most Apple consumers are raving fans of the company and its products – who better to arm with instantly-deployable advertising content?

And it’s more than just advertising – when an iPod owner puts that sticker on their schoolbook or cubicle or bike or dorm room door, they’re identifying themselves as a proud member of a special tribe.  Of course, there are many other ways of doing this – someone can have a Ferrari key fob (even if they drive a Yugo, they are saying, “I belong to the group of people that admire fast cars”), or a Lost  t-shirt (which says to the world, I enjoy having my mind messed with every week).

You should do the same thing for your bar patrons.  Make available some kind of identification piece that lets them show other people that they come to (or even “belong to”) your establishment.  The type of item would vary depending on the type of joint you run, and the type of clientele.  Young people might like ball caps or t-shirts or bumper stickers; older folks might like nice pens or key chains or business card cases.  You can look at the types of tchotchkes given our at trade shows for more ideas – I’m not going to do ALL the work.