Market Omissions

Poking couch potatoes is useless.

For as along as television cable companies have provided set top boxes, one or another technologist has pimped the possibilities of interactive television (iTV).  Some were horrible notions, such as Microsoft attempting to turn your TV into a dial-up terminal and thus annoying the rest of your family as you v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y surfed the Internet.  Others sought to enhance viewing experiences by offering multiple picture-in-picture angles of sporting events.  A few tried to make a buck by littering your TV screen with icons that would instantly purchase merchandise.

They all bombed, and for the same reason (and continue to do so).

The fundamental flaw behind iTV is that television was designed specifically to prevent interaction.  A couple of generations of boob tube bumpkins have stridently avoided interacting with their parents, spouses, children and reality.  Television was a tool for disconnecting the brain and thus decompressing from daily life and humans.

Making television interactive defied the very purpose of television.

When conducting market research, it is as important to know what the market does not want as it is to know what they do. A famous case study was Circuit City, back before their growth spurt, management change and eventual demise.  At that time the consumer electronics retail market was dominated by mom-and-pop outlets that offered no selection, high prices, lousy service and a host of other venial sins.  Circuit City surveyed consumers and itemized everything they hated about buying televisions, radios and washing machines, then promptly engineered these annoyances out of their stores.  This lead Circuit City to be the darling of Wall Street … until Best Buy came along. Circuit City later gutted their brand by killing-off the very service features that originally made them popular and eventually declared bankruptcy.

Silicon Strategies Marketing recently performed a research study for a client in the B2B services space.  The goal was to understand the motivations of their primary buyers.  Our design had many elements, but one was to explore what the buyers loved and hated about their jobs.  Armed with this information, our client was able to restructure their offerings and processes to amplify the former and reduce the latter.

Making people happy is a good product strategy.

The marketing lesson herein is that buyer motivations are like the force: they have a light sight (positive motivations), a dark side (satanic-level dislikes) and they hold our universe together.  Adding 1,000 useless features to a software application that satisfies 10% of your buyers, but which makes your software annoying complicated for the other 90%, is generally a mistake.  Research what bothers people, avoid vexing them, and perhaps invent a new product that addresses the source of their annoyance.

And above all, don’t make them interact during prime time.  They really hate that.


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