Friday, September 25, 2009

Feature Fatigue

by Atif Abbas

Being Homo sapiens, we ask for more and thank less - this is human nature. We want the thing we cannot afford. We like things that are in other person’s hand and when it comes to Tech-no-logy, man is becoming more vulnerable and greedy. Yes, you are right; I am talking about Cell Phones.

It’s the strategy of marketing to present things to create temptation and eventually make luxurious thing(s) – a necessity. Take the case of toothpaste; it has been made a crucial household item. But the case is no more like the same with cellular technology, which has made cellular items so advance and affordable. This advancement on one side makes people greedy when it comes to features in a cell phone.

People having a good cell phone switch to an expensive one because that phone has some extra feature without thinking that the feature is of their use or not. A cell phone is no more a phone to talk, you can watch movie in it and so on. The switching to a more advance phone and finding that the old phone was more comfortable causes a fatigue, called 'feature fatigue'.

The initial attractiveness increases by offering such features in a product but ultimately decreases customers. You can observe that Nokia 1100 is mostly used at every level of customers of cell phones. You can see people with cell phones having tremendous features and you ask them how many times they have used the features other than calling and messaging and they tell, they have never used any of these features.

A phone’s basic purpose is to call and do messaging but now a lot of features are offered in a cell phone and people are eager to buy such a device but when they find that their simple phone was easy to use they appreciate their previous phone and comment, ‘all we have to do is make a call ’. Thus, people don’t see what their requirements are and spend their money on expensive phones.

* The same thing applies to other products; manufacturers like to add more utilities in their product so it will appeal the public and they buy it. As people want a Swiss-Army knife approach in every product they use; they go for features offered in one product but when they start using it they are unhappy with the product having increased complexity.

See the electronics giant Koninklijke (Royal) Philips Electronics' new brand promise: sense and simplicity. The concept is that products should be easy to use and should improve the quality of people's lives. The company apparently wants to take this idea beyond sloganeering: It created a Simplicity Advisory Board, a think tank consisting of designers, healthcare specialists, and technology experts, to help translate the message into new products.

Products are appreciated which do one thing very well. New Yorker published cartoon that shows a man arriving in a store with a simple question: "Do you have any phones that make phone calls?"

* Facts excerpted from "Defeating Feature Fatigue," Harvard Business Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, February 2006.
Image courtesy: MS-Word 2000

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