Category Archives: General

Netflix buys DVD.com, what’s next in the branding saga?

Netflix, once known as one of the most successful dot-com startups is going through a rough time with some serious branding mistakes. Today I read on engadget.com that Netflix bought DVD.com… why would they do that?

Seven years ago the world looked great for Netflix. In 2005 it was shipping 1 Million DVDs per day to its subscribers. Wow! Netflix had an amazing position: it simply was #1 in the DVD rental. Netflix was nicely riding on the DVD player sales. There was one problem though… the DVD player was eventually going to be replaced by digital distribution.

The Netflix folks saw that coming and in 2007 they introduced streaming under the same Netflix brand. The service became successful but times changed and in Q3 2011 Netflix lost 800.000 subscribers.

The Netflix folks saw that one coming too and decided that the strong brand Netflix should live on in the streaming business, making place for a new brand called Qwikster for the DVD rental business. A couple of months later the idea was buried.

Or… was it? Netflix has now bought DVD.com. I am sure one of the ideas of the folks at Netflix is to use that for the rental business, moving Netflix over to the streaming business forever.

Now… what is going on here? Is this really the smartest move? No it is not!

Firstly, Netflix should have retained the Netflix brand for the DVD rental business only. The brand was the number one in the category. Even though the category is dying (and with that the brand) it would have been the best thing.

Secondly, for the streaming business a second brand would have been appropriate. It is a substantial new business / category in which the company could have been number one again. This brand should have been positioned as the streaming service.

Thirdly, buying a generic domain “DVD.com” is really a waste of money. Consumers are not thinking “I’d like to rent a DVD so I go to DVD.com”,  they think “I’d like to rent a DVD so I go to Netflix.com”. The DVD.com “brand” is a waste of money.

 

The art of version numbers – II

Version numbers are everywhere… every piece of software,  many websites, photo camera firmware, well pretty much on anything that is software. Yet, in marketing we do not seem to get it right when communicating the meaning of version numbers to consumers.

For consumers this is rather annoying because in the end everybody can relate to numbers. 8 is perceived better than 7 and 7 is perceived better than 6. Even with sub numbers: version 5.2 is perceived better than version 5.1.

So, you might think: what is the problem? The problem comes in when we start adding the third sequence number: what is the difference for consumers between version 2.0 and 2.0.1?

I propose something very simple:

  • Version 2.0: the second version of a product, truly different/better from version 1.0
  • Version 2.1: the first iteration of version 2.0: new features are added, but it is not a complete overhaul. If it were a complete overhaul the version would be version 3.0.
  • Version 2.1.1: a bug fix release of version 2.1, there a no new features, it is just a better version of 2.1. If it would have new features it would be version 2.2.

So, let’s take a look how this works in practice with a couple of examples:

iOS software updates
These work great with the above principle: the last big upgrade was iOS 5, followed by release 5.0.1 which was a bug fixing release. This was followed by release 5.1, a feature release. All easy to understand!

Another division inside Apple follows a different approach with Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro
The latest release of Apple’s professional video editing software (version 10)  has not started of that well. Many of the Pro features like multi cam editing were missing in the first release. It did cost Apple lots of customers, who moved to Adobe products. Now months later Apple has made updates to its software. The latest release adds pretty much all the missing features from the first version. Yet… Apple calls this significant update version 10.0.3… For consumers just looking at the numbers: version 10 (10.), no significant updates (.0), some fixes (.3). In my view, marketing the product as version 10.3 would have clearly indicated the massive improvements to the product!

 

Version 10.0.3: significant or not so significant update?

Rather like this…

Version 10.3, this must be significant!

What do you say? Can we simplify versioning in communications?

 

Skype: your answer call button is on the wrong place!

Am I the only one having an issue with the Skype incoming call UI?

Whenever somebody calls me I intuitively move my mouse over the first button to take the call… in the Skype UI this is however the “Hang up” button. To me the logic is “Answer” and then “Hang up”, not the other way around…

Is it just me?

Incoming call UI
Corrected incoming call UI

How iA Writer is reintroducing the word processor category

Something amazing happened last May when a company called Information Architects  released the Mac version of iA Writer, “a digital writing tool that makes sure that all your thoughts go into the text instead of the program.”.

Why is this is amazing? Well, iA Writer just entered the word processor category traditionally dominated by Microsoft Word and Apple Pages. Both Word and Pages are of course expected to do… well… lot’s of word processing…!

A closer look at the propositions of Microsoft Word and Apple Pages reveals that while these products in a distant past might have been about word processing today they are clearly about something else.

When looking at the Microsoft Word website the browser bar still says “Word 2010 – Document and Word Processing Software – Office.com” but in reality the focus of Word today is more on desktop publishing, as Microsoft says Word is “More than words”.

“More than words” is made possible through 3 sub propositions, none of them about word processing:

There you have it… Word 2010… bye bye word processing, hello to desktop publishing!

Over at Apple with Pages the situation is very much the same. The promise of Pages is to be “both a streamlined word processor and an easy-to-use page layout tool. It allows you to be a writer one minute and a designer the next, always with a perfect document in the works.”

There is a bit more word processing going on here but the end conclusion is the same: bye bye word processing, hello to desktop publishing!

While Microsoft Word and Apple Pages have left the word processor category and are moving into the desktop publishing category the move made room for new entrants: hello iA Writer!

What is iA Writer doing? Well, it simply is a 100% word processor. “One of our goals was to create a writing app without settings. When opening Writer, all you can do is write. The only option you have is full screen and FocusMode. To increase the pleasure of writing is exactly what we intended when creating Writer. A better tool doesn’t make a better craftsman, but a good tool makes working a pleasure.”

All of this supported by three propositions:

Yes, iA Writer looks a lot like… a word processor:

iA Writer has 8 key features: 1. Auto markdown; 2. Professional Typography; 3. Spell Check; 4. Words & Character Count; 5. Reading Time; 6. Focus Mode; 7. Disappearing Bar; 8. iCloud compatible

Amazing isn’t it? A product build upon 8 key features to deliver … a product that is really optimized for writing. While most of the 8 key features look familiar and can be achieved in e.g. Word there are four things that make the product stand out and differentiate:

  1. It is a true word processor, the only thing it does is … word processing and everything is optimized for that.
  2. No additional features included:  the creators of iA Writer were able to resist and keep focus
  3. Typography, designed by “the best type, screen and graphic designers in the industry”. Of course it makes a difference to look at something beautiful when writing something even more beautiful
  4. Focus mode: this is the real differentiator: in Focus mode all the text fades out except for the sentence you are working on so you can, well… focus.

The result of delivering a focused product is pretty stunning: iA Writer is a top 10 app in the productivity category on the Apple App Store. Even more stunning since in this category the top 4 apps are Apple products, including Pages ranked 2.

Furthermore the consumer ratings are high: 4.5 stars with lots of raving reviews with titles like “an app I didn’t know I wanted”, “Professional Writers, Rejoice” and “Insanely gorgeous”.

So here you have it: when companies or products leave the category in which they originally entered it leaves space for new entrants, even in the word processor category that I never thought would be such an exciting category! How wrong I was!

iA Writer shows us that when you focus your product in a category occupied by “do it all” products you do get noticed and can reintroduce the category to consumers. Well done iA Writer!

Mac owners: get iA Writer on iTunes

Coca Cola: how do you get me hooked again?

About 4 months ago I decided to stop drinking coffee and Coca Cola. I was really drinking a lot of both every day. At the same time I stopped eating candies and reduced all my food intake after 8PM in the evening. All this had a great effect on my wellbeing: I lost a bit of weight and at the same time started to feel better and better.

My wife however is drinking some Coca Cola still and once in a while during these past 4 months I am taking a little sip, just to see how I react and curious about the taste.

Here is a funny thing: I find that the taste of Cola turned into something completely not desirable… I don’t even like it anymore, isn’t that weird? Remember: I was a real Coca Cola drinker! The first time it happened I thought that it is my mind trying to resist the addiction. I was wrong: it happens every time I try a sip.

Another interesting observation is that I cannot recall the taste of Coca Cola, isn’t that weird? I can easily recall the taste of Fanta, 7up and many other soft drinks, just not Coca Cola.

So, here is what I am thinking: the Coca Cola Company must have done some research in understanding people like me and how to get them hooked again. I simply do not belief that the brand image and brand desire of Coca Cola is made up from the feeling you get when consuming Coca Cola, or could it be?

Curious to read your views!

Amazon.com, the online retailer where we used to shop

The other day when visiting Amazon.com I got a surprise: a new home page!  I guess Amazon is testing and therefore spreading the new home page in the wild with some customers.

The new home page shows the new direction of Amazon. In fact it is a long departure from the Amazon that we all know so well. You know,  the company that sells physical goods, “Earth’s Biggest Retailer“ and has a well earned number one position.

Not so any more. Today Amazon reinvents themselves as a digital retailer. What a really bad idea.  I wrote earlier about Amazon and their line extension move to digital. There were clear signs that Amazon might fall for the line extension trap.

Let take a look at the new home page:

Now take a close look at the categories:

  • Instant video
  • MP3 store
  • Cloud Player
  • Kindle
  • Cloud Drive
  • Appstore for Android
  • Game & Software Downloads
  • Audible Audiobooks

Hang on a minute? Where are:

  • Books
  • Film, Music, Games
  • Electronics
  • Computers & Office
  • Home, Garden, Pets
  • Toys, Children & Baby
  • Clothes, Shoes & Watches
  • Hobbies, Sports & Leisure
  • Grocery, Health & Beauty
  • DIY, Tools & Car

Clearly, in the “new” Amazon these are not as important anymore. It is now all about digital.

Let’s get somethings straight:

  • Amazon is currently in traffic #5 in the USA and #15 globally (via Alexa.com Sep 25)
  • Amazon is the undisputable #1 online retailer “Earth’s Biggest” both in numbers and in consumers mind
  • Some of Amazon product categories are challenged by more focussed brands like Diapers.com, Drugstore.com, Bookrepository.com and many more, but Amazon has still competitive advantage over many of the challengers by offering Amazon Prime (‘free’ shipping for 79USD per year) across all the product ranges.

Now, Amazon wants to “expand” the business and moving into digital. In other words moving from a category in which it is number one to a category it will need to compete really hard against established brands like  iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Skydrive and many more…

The big question for me is: what are the guys at Amazon HQ’s thinking? Why dilute the meaning of the Amazon brand by entering in the digital space? You did it right with Kindle (you did not call it the Amazon reader) and MyHabit  (you did not call it Amazon Fashion Goldbox) and you should have done exactly the same with digital.

Keep your brand where it is established, especially when it is number one in a category and create a new brand for digital, that is what Amazon should have done.

Volkswagen Sharon and Touran, which to buy?

Interesting advertisement I saw the other day at Helsinki Vantaa airport. A Volkswagen logo with an image of the Sharan and Touran. The question is: should Volkswagen not focus in their advertising? And focus in such a way that the one product they believe is attracting customers is placed on the ad, together with a super clear call to action?

Product naming going wrong, case: Apple Final Cut Pro X.

Since 2005 Apple has sold a professional video and audio production suite for OS X named Final Cut Studio. The core product inside this suite is Final Cut Pro, a video editing product. It has been around since 1999 and is used by many filmmakers.

A couple of weeks ago Apple launched the long-awaited successor of Final Cut Pro 7, called Final Cut Pro X.

Here is a test for all readers… by just looking at the name and without possibly any prior knowledge of Final Cut Pro…  what would you expect of Final Cut Pro X as a successor of Final Cut Pro 7 ?

Could it be: everything from version 7 and much much much more… including some super new innovations in video editing (why otherwise use the X in the name)? This expectation building was happening inside the community. To sum it up with two words, the expectation was nothing less than total awesomeness.

Apple however decided to do things differently. They build Final Cut Pro X from the ground up as a new product, leaving many features desired by the Final Cut Pro 7 audience out. To name a few: importing of video projects from version 7 to X does not work (hey? why do you call it still Final Cut Pro if it cannot handle Final Cut Pro files?), multicam editing (hey? isn’t this a Pro feature?) and many more.

Professional editors get even more the feeling that this is not a Pro product when they launch Final Cut Pro X for the first time. At that time a dialog is presented to import iMovie projects. iMovie is Apple’s entry video editing product that is part of iLife. Products considered to be used in the home environment, not by professionals…

As a result of all of this the product is rated really bad on the Apple Mac App Store. And note, consumers can only rate after they purchased the USD 299 product:

For any Apple product these are not normal ratings, far from it! So the question is could it be that the name positions the product wrong? I think partly it is. Let’s take a look:

  1. A name has a meaning. There is Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5. A consumer expects all of these to be photoshop. The same applies for Final Cut Pro. Unfortunately Final Cut Pro X has little or nothing to do with the previous Final Cut Pro 7.
  2. Do not alienate your target audience. Clearly, for whatever reason Apple is not after the professional market and that is of course totally fine. But it is not smart to let your previous target audience believe you still make a great product for them. In stead, Apple could have simply named the product iMovie Pro as many have suggested on their product reviews on the Apple Mac App Store. That way it would have been clear to the professional market that they should switch to another brand, without letting them buy Final Cut Pro X and be double disappointed. At the same time not naming the product Final Cut Pro would show to the professional consumer that there now is a product beyond iMovie that is not as hard to use as Final Cut Pro was. Something Apple clearly wants to achieve.

Take a look at the two reviews below. These reviews were served first when searching for Final Cut Pro X on July 19.

The big questions: would all of this have been different if the product was called “iMovie Pro”?
… And by doing so would the one star ratings go away?
… Would the endless complaining about the Final Cut Pro X not being the same as Final Cut Pro 7 go away?
Ultimately: would the product have been positioned correctly by naming it properly?
Screenshot from July 19, click to enlarge

Amazon.com: what happened to the promise of Earth’s Biggest?

Back in the days the promise of Amazon was “Earth’s biggest bookstore”. How easy to believe! Millions of books at a good price with a brand named after another earth’s biggest.

Remember?

Then Amazon moved on from just books to CDs/DVDs/Games. In my view all still very logic and Amazon executed the right strategy to stay “Earth’s Biggest” in these categories. How? By being The Biggest.

It did not stop there, Amazon expanded further, according to their website “today, Amazon offers everything from books and electronics to tennis rackets and diamond jewelry.” Still, this enormous expansion works. When living in New York City we “amazoned” pretty much everything. Amazon became “Earth’s Biggest Retailer“. This positioning was supported with help of “Amazon Prime”: free 2 day shipping for a yearly fixed fee that tremendously helped taking away the two headaches of internet shopping: delivery fees and delivery time.

At the moment Amazon has expanded even further. This time however the expansion goes beyond the Retail category. This expansion is where future problems for Amazon will come in.

 

The Amazon.com shopping experience is now split in “Digital” and “Physical”. In other words: the line extension split is made very explicit to consumers. Why will this not work in the long run?

Firstly, Amazon has expanded the brand from retail to digital media consumption. As we know expanding brands in new categories include a risk: consumers can get confused with your current position. Why risk it? Fast forward a couple of years and think about what consumers would answer to the question “What is Amazon in one word?”: is it web shopping, cloud storage, a sort of Netflix or still the best place to buy products online?

Secondly, this move endangers Amazons current positioning of Earths Biggest in physical goods, a position they should simply not give up!  There is plenty of competition that has a very reduced scope and focus, such as The Book Depository. Book Depository sells well… books (and only books) but differentiates with free worldwide shipping. Since we live in Finland it has become my number one go to book site. So Amazon will  need to improve in all the sub categories of the products they are selling to stay Earths Biggest.

Thirdly, in “Digital” goods Amazon is far from being Earths Biggest, and even if Amazon would be in terms of numbers they are not in consumer’s mind. In this space there is lots of existing and established competition.

The option I would have recommended to Amazon is to strongly consider launching a new brand, let’s say Everest. Amazon did it right with Kindle. Calling the current Kindle product the “Amazon reader” would have been a disaster. Think about it… would a consumer go to a shop to buy an Amazon? No, they wouldn’t, but they do go to the shop for a Kindle. And it pretty successful: Kindle is now synonymous with e-books/ digital reading.

Everest would on one hand be an part of Amazon, just like how Kindle and the Kindle Store are today. On the other hand on Everest.com would attract new customers who not necessarily would go to Amazon.com for digital media consumption. The “only” thing Amazon would need to make sure is that Everest.com would create a consumer need based on something new, not serving consumers the same or very similar stuff they can get with the established players.

Electrolux EKF7000 – The award winning coffee maker that beeps when the coffee is ready

Welcome to the Electolux EKF7000, the award-winning coffee maker! >>.

A coffee maker that beeps when the coffee is ready, how handy is that! Very handy you might think! That is what the product designers at Electrolux must have been thinking as well. They unfortunately forgot two little details:

1) The sound level of the beep cannot be adjusted (the default “beeps” are similar to a fire alarm)

2) There is no way to turn of the notification

The issue is obvious: think about the scenario of people living in an apartment building brewing coffee in the early morning while the rest of the family is still sleeping. As soon as the coffee is ready the whole family will wake up because of the fire alarm sound level beeps. So, you basically have three choices: 1) no more coffee in the morning, 2) wake up the family, 3) sell this machine and purchase a new one from a different brand and never look back to Electrolux again… a consumer might think: they disappointed me once, why would they not do it again !

This underlines that any new household product no matter how well designed should really be tested in normal environments by normal people. I am sure that at least this beep “feature” would have been removed to make the product better and usable.