Simplicity Sells

Flip CamPeople who own Flip cams will tell you how much they love(d) them. I’m one of them. If you are too, ask yourself one question – are you carrying around your flip? Do you have it within an arm’s length of you right now? Probably not. And that my friends is why Cisco ended up closing up it’s Flip business. In it’s heyday it was pure cinematic magic. It fit in your pocket, was easy to use and may have even recorded in HD.

Today, those things are still important but now you’ve got your iPhone, your Android or (gasp) your Blackberry. Mine is 8 inches away from my left hand and it’s rare for it to be much further than that. And oh besides pics and movies, my smartphone also has music, texts, apps and this crazy thing called e-mail.

Do you know who is the #1 manufacturer of cameras in the world? …wait for it…. Nokia. That’s right. The world’s #1 camera maker also happens to be one of the worlds top cell makers. Now you could quickly interpret this as a blog post advocating feature integration, and it is to a degree, but simplicity doesn’t have to be about integration. In fact – adding more features isn’t necessarily a good thing. But it’s important to note that simplicity of yesterday may quickly become the inconvenience of today (which I surmise is why flip struggled to make it in today’s environment).

So here are three more products besides the Flip, who in my opinion, are on similar paths. At one time great products, these now face some serious issues in simplifying their functionality, whether it be a more integrated experience, changing market dynamics or simply better competition.

1) Rhapsody Music. I love the idea of Rhapsody. I never have to actually “pay” for music. For a flat fee, I download as much music as I want to multiple devices and I never have to worry about backing it up. That said, Rhapsody to-go, due to digital rights management, only works on a select number of handheld devices. It’s great if most of your consumption can be via computer and streaming but bad if you are a commuter or frequent traveler. And it should come as no surprise that Rhapsody and Apple haven’t really figured out how to play ball on this particular issue.

2) Time Warner Cable – or cable companies in general, at one time a must have in every American household. The advent of DVR and on-demand programming likely helped stave off some user attrition but cable companies are in for some rough times as most of the major networks are already giving content away for free and on demand. Then add in services like Netflix. Paying for cable and DVR subscriptions is quickly becoming more of an annoyance than a convenience. Most services still haven’t figured out how to let people access their recorded content remotely, not to mention we as consumers have gotten use to getting content for free.

3) Healthcare providers. I’m continually shocked by how few providers actually provide value added services like remote consultations via video conferencing. How few actually let you schedule appointments online. How many still confirm appointments by phone rather than text or email. Healthcare is in a sorry state. The only saving grace right now is that everyone is more or less in the same boat – competing against mediocrity. But sooner or later, that will shift and the winners will quickly be separated from the losers. Here is a great article from Fast Company that paints a very encouraging picture for the future of the patient experience.

I’m sure collectively we can think of dozens more but these are the products/services I use today that I believe face some serious challenges if they are to compete in today’s integrated market, one where consumers in a singular voice are demanding simplicity. Marketers can no longer create products in a vacuum where they address a singular need. Needs are converging and the lines are becoming blurred. What others can you add to this list?


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