This is Part One of a two-part debate on whether we should be investing in brand name technology.
As we gear up for Super Bowl XLIX in a couple weeks, I've started seeing lots of ads for discounted TVs. This got me thinking, do we really need to splurge for that top of the line TV? At CES this year, manufacturers presented a slew of new TV options (4K, 8K, Thin, curved, you name it). Lesser known TCL even introduced a giant 4K curved TV. Now that's pretty cool. But aside from the cool factor, is it really worth the $1,000 and up price tag (Samsung currently sells an 85" 4K TV for a cool $40k) when there are other products out there that get the job done just fine? Why spend over $1,000 when I can buy an HDTV for under $400? Sticking with the TV example for a minute, consider what your TV is really for – to show you pictures that look right, to bring you entertainment, and to look good in your living room. Does the average consumer (or any consumer for that matter) really need to see every pore on news anchor Brian Williams' face while watching the nightly news?
I don't think so.
Technology has evolved to the point where the average consumer has warranted skepticism of high ticket items. It's like paying full price for a name brand OTC drug when a generic will do just fine. We have moved into a new era where we favor convenience and price over an abundance of misunderstood features (most of which many of us will never use). Having something here and now is far more important that having it perfect.
Like most consumer categories, technology has begun to follow the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) where 20 percent of the effort, features, and investment will deliver 80 percent of the necessary value to consumers. This means that you can drastically simplify a product in order to make it more accessible and still keep 80 percent of what users are looking for – making the product good enough.
With the proliferation of online reviews for every product, we are better off reading reviews from people who actually own and use the product rather than simply relying on a name brand and list of features. We are at the point where a slew of positive Amazon reviews, or a mention on C|NET or The Wirecutter can sway consumers to an adequate product that more accurately fits their needs and challenges years of brand perceptions and millions of marketing dollars. And that's how it should be. Consumers should feel empowered to find the product that best fits their needs, not the product that has the best brand name or that was selected for them via marketing tactics. We shouldn't feel like we are missing out on something or purchasing something completely inadequate simply because we chose the cheaper model. It is ok to favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. So we won't see every drop of blood spilt in Game of Thrones, or hear every snare beat on the Foo Fighter's newest album. But does missing those things really take away from the overall experience that the products intend to provide us with? Probably not. But we get the gist. And that's good enough.
Stay tuned for the other side of this debate next week on why we shouldn't be settling for just good enough.