To let Loose is to Lose

It kind of amuses me sometimes, when very sensible people say something very insensible. I am not saying that I am always sensible, but the problem is I never APPRECIATE that I am being insensible. It takes one different soul to appreciate the fact that one is being insensible. Ha ha… confusing is it?? Same here.

I will now share why am I amused, a few days ago I was witnessing an event, teams from various colleges participated in that event and the team which eventually won the competition had caught my attention. This team was suggesting things like “increase your profit” to a dying company, for heaven’s sakes everyone knows if the company is able to pull up profits it will be out of the glitch. Similarly that team said very proudly “First suggestion – Eradicate Corruption”, at this instant I shook my head in horror and murmured ‘TEAM!!! You were supposed to come up with an idea to do so”. I was pretty sure that this team would be grilled by the judges, but as I have already mentioned, the team won the FIRST prize.

People have a very narrow perspective, in fact people IDEALISE things too much and too quickly. . That team said so many IDEAL things that their whole idea became IDEAL. People are either too content with the status quo or too disgruntled because of the status-quo, but in both the cases they don’t do anything to change the status-quo; the status quo remains status quo.

Similar tales I get to hear from Marketing side also. Consider Apple and Macintosh vs the rest of the computer companies. Everyone knew and said that they need to revolutionize the PC industry; millions of dollars were pumped into market analysis and research to find some solution to this stumbling issue. We are talking about circa 1995 (I think its apt to use that terminology, given the pace of development in PC industry) Computer companies tried from one thing to the other, they kept selling Personal Computers but never thought of personalising them until, Mr. Steve Jobs came out with translucent Macintosh computers, if I am not wrong it was iMac G3 the “Bondi Blue”- Colours, Customization and Performance. Computer was no more a white coloured geek asset kept in your home, on the contrary it had a dash of colour and of life; in fact it had a fashion statement in it.

I would love to see someone who is in love with a marketing book to analyse this situation. Such a guy would definitely say Mr. Jobs fulfilled the NEED of customer rather than the WANT. Alas, my take is different, what was provided by Macintosh can be categorised into two sections, it was either sheer excellence or it was a pure gamble, they played some dice and things BINGOED. Macintosh didn’t invest money in some research on marketing, it was a simple case of differentiating, the computer was out of the room now, and it literally came into the garden. People wanted others to look at their computer, they wanted to flaunt it.

That was the tale of Macintosh, now everyone!!! I want you to visualize a scenario. You went to a doctor; he diagnosed you, recommended some pills and asked you to leave. When you were about to leave the doctor, if he said “you can take the pill anytime of the day”, what does that prescription mean? On the surface, this appears to be a very ‘easy to follow’ command, but in reality it’s not. I’ll try to elaborate this condition in terms of marketing, the patient knows what he wants, why he wants, in fact he has the product in hand but still he is not sure WHEN to have it because he has an open-ended choice ‘an infinite choice loop’. The patient will be confused  when exactly to take the pill.

Another similar trivial condition cropped up at the windows support service, I don’t exactly remember the date and context right now. The problem was with a simple message of ‘press any key’- they had a message which asked the used to press ANY key to continue, the caller was confused to last bit and called in to ask where the ANY key is situated on the keyboard. I don’t know if it was because of this incident or some other feedback, windows changed the message to ‘press Return key’.

‘Taking pill anytime’ and ‘press any key’ gave a trivial choice to the customer so much that it became too difficult to take decision.

I want to bring up this issue of infinite choice loop. When Macintosh came out with some colours in their computers, basically it was an act narrowing down of that infinite space. My editor wants me elaborate this point, so here I do that. Put yourself in the era when only white coloured computers were available in the market. you owned a computer, it works fine for you but somewhere in your mind the WANT of having something flashy is cropping, now ask yourself an honest question, if given a chance which coloured computer would look best. Try not to get influenced by the Mac that you might have seen, try to be rational and think as if you have never seen a coloured computer in your life. Ask the same question to your friends. I know one would laugh at this question because everyone knows coloured computer do look nice, but in a state of absence of those the same choice in near impossible to make.

It’s not only the consumers who get confused by the choice phenomenon even marketers gets baffled by such issues and end up doing perfectly insensible things. When Dell was implementing its pioneer business model in the USA, European marketers were baffled by the choice that Dell was giving. More so they (who are the they here?)were baffled by the amount of choice that THEY themselves can give, it was an infinite choice loop for them as well. The European market is different from the US market, they could not have possibly copied the model of Dell just like that; they needed some tweaking to do for the European Market. This little Ideation was absent. In this event they got confused to an extent that they declared that the model cannot be implemented in the European market. They (who are the they here?)waited for Dell to come there and fail so that there point can be proved indirectly. What happened in the European market with Dell, everyone knows about that. Dell had to tweak their Choice set to suit the varied European market, that’s it, period.

I have found Dell and Apple/Macintosh to be leaders among those organisations who have repeatedly given and maintained choices to customers. On a serious note, one should not take the examples of Dell and Apple/Macintosh as they come. Consider a scenario Macintosh had come out with pink/red computers but no one bought them, Macintosh would have gone into the annals of history as the company that tried to sell PINK computers. What if Dell’s model would have failed, the so called Lords of Finance would have died of amusement, so much effort and money went into the model and it returned nothing but dejection. Consider the example of classic coke rebranding, Sergio Zyman, no matter how many books he may write, he is still known for the branding HORROR he committed, what if that rebranding was successful, he would have been GOD of Branding.

~marketing is all about trials and failures until you stop getting failures~

One has to keep enjoying doing that.

~ Saad Bin Hamid

MBA, Batch of 2012

DoMS, IIT Madras


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