Ok, so that was clearly designed to get you to read this post. However, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. I’ve been around long enough to have heard agencies, clients, brand managers, keynote speakers, and the like spout how we need to simplify things for our consumers. We need to treat them like children. We need to follow the K.I.S.S. model of keep it simple stupid. I was in a meeting last week where an idea was killed by the client because, “it’s just too complex and requires too much effort; we need to keep it simple.”
I whole-heartedly disagree. What we aim for when we spout simplicity is convenience. I’d like to take it a step further and say that what we really need to do is create value. Yeah, I know, that sounds a little too preachy. It sounds a bit too pompous, as if I’m trying to sound smart. But, just walk a little further with me and let me share with you 4 great examples of how a company has made their consumers’ lives more complex, but in doing so succeeded.
- Nike+. If you’ve used Nike+ you know what I’m talking about. Let’s say you were a runner before Nike+ ever existed. This is how simple running was; you picked out a pair of shoes, you grabbed some clothes, you looked at your watch, determined a distance or time, and ran. Then you came back, stretched, took a shower, and kicked back. Maybe you had a runner’s log and jotted down times or distance. But, that’s pretty simple. With Nike+ you needed to buy a special pair of Nike shoes, purchase a certain type of iPod, setup some playlists, establish an account at NikePlus.com, train your Nike+ chip, and deal with iPod crashes. For some people they literally had to switch shoe allegiances, buy music on iTunes, and learn how to sync them all together. Nike+ is a bitch of a tool to use. It’s not simple. Yet, it is wildly successful.
- Guitar Hero. How popular is Guitar Hero? Well it spawned 4 sequels, convinced a competitor to come forward, and got Gibson guitars to sue the game’s creator and the retailers. But, think about this for a second, in order to really experience Guitar Hero, you needed a $250.00 game system (Wii, XBOX, Playstation), $60.00 for the game, and $75.00 for the guitar. If you already had the system and wanted to buy the game, you still needed to drop $75.00 for a “special” controller, just to play 1 game. So great, you have the game system, game, and controller, but now you needed to LEARN how to play the game and use the controller. This isn’t exactly an easy task; if you’ve played Guitar Hero or watched others play it, you know exactly what I mean.
- Nintendo Wii. Speak of the Wii, let’s talk about Nintendo’s amazing creation. For years, decades even, video games have been centered around a joystick or controller. The controller contains some buttons that you can press and a stick to control movement. Really, the only evolution in the joystick has been the number of buttons you can press, the shape of the controller, and the number of sticks. That all changed when Nintendo launched the Wii. The Wii uses a special, never before seen, controller that includes built-in accelerometers and infrared to determine its position in 3D space. This essentially allows users to leverage physical movement as a means to control the game instead of buttons. Talk about a learning curve. And the learning curve, wasn’t just limited to adults, check out this video to see what happens when a baseball bat meets a TV. There’s no doubt the Wii has been successful in spite of it being hard to come by in stores and revolutionary method for playing.
- Apple iPhone. What you say? I’m picking on Apple? Yes, I am indeed. Google “iphone difficult” and you’ll see a litany of comments, posts, and review talking about how difficult the iPhone is to use. People are frustrated with the auto-spell-corrections, keyboard sensitivity, mail syncing-setup problems, etc., etc., etc. People complained about the activation procedure, random lockups, and the list goes on. Yet, despite all these frustrations, problems, and difficulties the iPhone accounts for 40% of Apple’s revenue. The iPhone was sexy, unique, and positioned itself as 3 tools in 1: computer, iPod, and cell phone. That is VALUE; that is convenience created from a difficult and complex product.
There are several more that come to mind, but in the interest of “space” I’ll spare you. The interesting thing with the 4 above scenarios is that while each product isn’t simple, we’re willing to make investments in: time, money, and effort for them. Why? Because we derive value from them. Value can be vague and it can certainly be unique to each individual. However, it’s something we all crave.
What we don’t need is to treat our consumers with kid gloves. They aren’t dumb. We don’t need to treat them like 5 year olds. In fact, our consumers are smart and want to make an effort. They’re willing to invest time in learning and even willing to put up with buggy and sometimes problematic products. Well they are, if we’re willing to make the investment in them. That investment means providing them VALUE.