Last week I finished up almost a month’s intensive investigation, analysis, synthesis, and creation, and planning.
We have a major product family that needed a huge refresh. The product manager for that line was transferred elsewhere in the company … and I got the file 3 weeks before a executive meeting in which I had to present the plan. Tens of millions of dollars are at stake.
So I had to plow through a ton of data, figure out what was happening with the line, understand it, decide where to take it, plan the new approach, formulate my presentation and style, and sell it to the top stakeholders.
That was an intensely interesting experience, and made me think about the relationship between data, complexity, and the quality of decisions. In honor of Kathy Sierra and her wonderful charts, I fumbled together this graph in 37 seconds or less:
So here’s my back-of-the-envelope theory:
With little data, decisions are a crapshoot. Who knows: might be right, might be wrong.
With lots of data but inadequate synthesis, decisions are even worse. Still might be right and might be wrong, but even more likely than the little data scenario to be fuzzy, unfocused, and confusing.
With even more data but extremely rigorous synthesis (lots of interesting but not ultimately relevant datapoints dying on the cutting room floor) you have the chance – repeat, the chance – to make good decisions that can actually be implemented in a clear, direct, and powerful way.
I’m sure there’s lots of holes in this bathtub analysis: poke away!
He’s a psychiatrist-turned-brand-marketer, and he helps companies understand what people are really thinking (as opposed to what they’ll tell you) and why they really do things (as opposed to how they explain themselves). An interesting part:
When we [are] born, we have the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is there already. It’s part of survival; it’s breathing, eating, going to the bathroom. But then, in relationship with the mother, we develop the second brain, which is the limbic brain — emotions — and these emotions vary from one culture to another. In the relationship with your mother, you’re going to imprint, make mental connection about what means love, what means mother, what means being fed, what means a home, what means all the things that are very basic for survival. [These] are transmitted by the mother to you, and you create this mental connection in the brain — like a reference system, if you want, that you keep using. After a while, this system becomes unconscious. You do not even think about it. You know “Oh, this is a house; of course this is a house.” Well, for a lot of people around the world, this is not a house. A house might be a tent or made of ice or whatever, but this is not their reference system. It might be different for others.
Then, after 7, we have in place the cortex. The cortex is the last part of the brain that we develop, and that’s what we suppose to be “intelligent.” We are scientists, you know — numbers and stuff like that. Now, what is interesting is the cortex, we [are] kind of aware of that. We try to be intelligent, but the reptilian [part] we are not very much aware of it, and the limbic is more or less completely unconscious.
An interesting example of what he’s talking about, when asked what’s wrong with most market research:
They are too cortex, which means that they think too much, and then they ask people to think and to tell them what they think. Now, my experience is that most of the time, people have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing. They have no idea, so they’re going to try to make up something that makes sense. Why do you need a Hummer to go shopping? “Well, you see, because in case there is a snowstorm.” No. Why [do] you buy four wheel drive? “Well, you know, in case I need to go off-road.” Well, you live in Manhattan; why do you need four wheel drive in Manhattan? “Well, you know, sometime[s] I go out, and I go — ” You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is disconnected. This is nothing to do with what the real reason is for people to do what they do. So there are many limits in traditional market research.
But some examples he gives of people that are getting it right:
Some people understand the power of the reptilian in a very gutsy way. They don’t do all the analysis of the three brains, but [they get it]. For example, the Nextel campaign, “I do, therefore I am.” Right, bingo. This is not “I think, therefore I am.” And the campaign for the Hummer — the Hummer is a car with a strong identity. It’s a car in a uniform. I told them, put four stars on the shoulder of the Hummer, you will sell better. If you look at the campaign, brilliant. I have no credit for it, just so you know, but brilliant. They say, “You give us the money, we give you the car, nobody gets hurt.” I love it! It’s like the mafia speaking to you. For women, they say it’s a new way to scare men. Wow. And women love the Hummer. They’re not telling you, “Buy a Hummer because you get better gas mileage.” You don’t. This is cortex things. They address your reptilian brain.
Fascinating stuff, to me.
[tags] branding, marketing, Clotaire Rapaille, john koetsier, market research [/tags]
I popped into the local Toyota dealership a couple of days ago …
I’m looking for a car, and since our company is going through a lean transformation (essentially, we trying to grow a culture based on the Toyota Production System) I thought I’d check out the products of that process.
Unfortunately, while all of Toyota’s products are excellent mechanically, none of them stir my soul in the least. Camry, Corolla: bland as white bread. The Prius is interesting ecologically, but vanilla in terms of style. And so on …
I talked to the sales guy about it, telling him I was interested in something with style and aesthetic appeal, and he said that 80% of the market is conservative … buying 4-door sedans without too much regard for style and look.
Is that true? I sure hope not.
[tags] market, conservative, aesthetics, toyota, john koetsier [/tags]
I am posting this to keep from throwing my laptop across the room.
A project management tool we use called Infowit is set up to force users to choose a new password every couple of months. OK, I can somewhat understand that – there’s a desire for security.
(Never mind the fact that when people have to change their passwords, they’re more likely to write them down so that they remember them, resulting in less security. On the other hand, if people change jobs, eventually they’re locked out of a corporation’s systems by default.)
The annoying thing is that the system will not allow me to choose any normal (i.e., human readable) password. It has to contain characters such as ~!#$%^&*()_+ etc. etc.
The triply annoying thing is that the auto-generated new password the system offers CONTAINS NONE OF THOSE CHARACTERS … and thus, tragi-comically, fails to work.
Sometimes, you can only shake your head wearily (and publish a nasty blog post about some stupid company’s stupidity.)
[tags] infowit, password, security, stupidity, funny, annoying, john koetsier [/tags]
My good friend and colleague Rastin Mehr took this picture of me for work … we’re doing a bit of a re-org and are re-branding ourselves with a postcard mini-site, with pix and bios.
(Pix, bios, and quote. Mine: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”)
It’s from T.S. Eliot’s poem:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
[tags] rastin mehr, premier, john koetsier [/tags]
Mouse over an external link – like this one – to see it in operation.
Usually I hate widgets and gimmicks, but this is helpful – very helpful. Even in this age of tabbed browsing it’s really useful to get a quick preview of the web page that you might be headed to … it gives you a quick sense of what to expect without actually taking the next step. It’s try before you buy … on a micro-level. It’s dead easy to add, too.
Let me know if you like …
[tags] snap, preview, blogging, bizhack, john koetsier [/tags]
Who says web 2.0 stuff is only for techy stuff? My wife and I are using it in the most mundane family situation imaginable: chores.
Take three kids. Sprinkle in 5-6 types of chores, a certain number of which must be done on a weekly basis to earn a – you guessed it – allowance. Figure out a way to manage the data without printing paper every week.
Fun, creative, beautiful, energizing: wow. And that’s just the aesthetics. Here’s what they’re planning on using the space for:
So, here is what we are going to do: have as many amazing gatherings in it as possible…AND open it up to the suggestion that anyone out there who is doing something that is worth a damn in this world can have amazing gatherings in our space. Really. It’s yours. Let’s make some beautiful energy.
I love tech, and I love gadgets, so don’t get me wrong. However, there’s a law very definitely at work here:
The simplicity of a product is inversely proportional to the number of times the word “simple” is used in its marketing.
Yes, I am trying to figure out a HD digital custom non-bank-breaking satellite TV package and oh, how I hate big companies with big solutions and big plans for product segmentation and big $$$ signs in their eyes.
(Just a hint of the disgust I feel at Bell ExpressVu may be imagined by understanding that in Bell’s “Family 2” channel pack, MTV and BPMtv – along with a few other UNfamily channels – are sandwiched in with perhaps one or two legitimately “family” channels.)
[tags] simplicity, usability, john koetsier [/tags]
I would bet a lot more money than is in my pocket right now that 50-75% of electronics returned are not, in fact, defective by damage or second law of thermodynamics.
Rather, I suspect they are defective by design.
Today my wife and I fought with our cordless phone system (tip: if it’s a system, it automatically sucks). It’s been phantom-ringing, not connecting, connecting only if you waited three rings, connecting if it felt like it, connecting if the moon was in the right phase and you had thrown a skunk over your left shoulder the previous night.
In other words, haunted.
Does anything suck more than phone usability? I’m talking about cell phones, about home cordless phones … anything but the old-fashioned rotary brick that never died.
We have three phones hooked up on one network, which we futzed with for about half an hour. In the end, we de-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station to forget about their existence) and then re-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station that they existed).
And now there is domestic bliss in the Koetsier household again, our fifth-grade daughter can phone her friends with impunity, and my wife’s sister can tie up the phone all night. (I, of course, regard phones as instruments of the devil and never use them unless poked with almost-molten cattle prods. After all, mothers might be calling. Or people who – ugh – might want me to do something. Cell phones, on the other hand, I will relunctantly answer, if no other alternatives exist. But that’s business, and I get usually paid for it, so I have no choice.)
But the point – and yes, there is a point – is that a couple times throughout the whole process we felt like chucking it all in, boxing up all the phones, and returning them. Obviously, they were broken. Obviously, they were not working. Obviously, we should be given a full refund.
I wonder how often that happens. How often does perfectly fine gadgetry (read: functioning with specs as designed) get returned simply because people can’t figure out how to make it work?
I would not be shocked if the answer is more than half.
And that’s got to cost somebody a whole lot of money. In comparison to which designing in usability starts to look cheap.
You would never hear Steve Jobs talk like this. When will Microsofties learn that it’s about authentic simple emotional things … not how smart they are or how many buzzwords they picked up in B-school?
(And why on earth is he not calling it Zune every time, instead of device? Poor branding!)
On the other hand, he’s young and obviously pretty sharp, well-spoken, personable. He’ll learn. And, contrary to Jobs, I do think the ability to send a song or a photo to someone else is pretty cool.
The funniest thing: he obviously doesn’t want to say “iPod” or “Apple” or “iTune.” It’s amusing to see him and Scoble find numerous ways to NOT say anything related to a certain fruity Cupertino-based company.
. . .
. . .
This story just hit Techmeme in the discussion on Scoble’s video podcast (at least when it shows on the home page).
[tags] zune, scoble, Matt Jubelirer, scobleshow, microsoft, podcast, john koetsier [/tags]
Somewhere, I forget where, I read that blogs that have pictures for each post are more popular. Since I know I read it on the internet, and everything on the internet is true, that’s precisely what I’m trying.
(I think it just makes everything look better, to be honest. It’s just a little easier on the eyes.)
So I’ve been looking for places to get appropriate photos. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of photos, you probably don’t have enough for every possible blog post. And, even though I have over 10,000 photos in my iPhoto library, do you think they’re nicely tagged, sorted, keyworded, and therefore searchable? Think again.
I checked out stock.xchng, which is cheap. Some photos are free, others cost one or more credits, which you can buy. However, the photo library does not have a photo for every possible need, and I have a constitutional aversion to paying for things when I don’t have to.