OK to Great

Over time, ok products can become great products. I got reminded of this yesterday evening, when I looked at my new Brita water pitcher.

A few years ago, I used to own a Brita water filter. I liked the water it produced, but the system was somewhat clumsy and after while, I stopped using it. Recently, we bought a new filter. I have been using it for some six weeks now and simply love it. Here are photos of the old and new system:

Short summary of key changes:

  • Cartridge is shorter and wider. It filters water 2x as fast, at slightly lower quality
  • Extra lid on top for allowing easier re-fill of the pitcher
  • Electronic timer that tells you when to put a new cartridge in
  • Narrower form, so it fits in the door of the fridge
  • Lid that covers muzzle.

Basically, the new and the old system do the same thing: they filter tap water. I didn’t like the old system, I love the new one. What has changed?

What has changed this product from ok to great is a collection of small improvements. None of them alone would have made this a great product, but in combination, they do.

One additional comment that I have is that there are no additional changes to the system (that I can see) apart from the ones described. All features that Brita changed had a positive impact on the usability of the system. There is no clutter, no stuff that is annoying or in the way. And that is not just ok, but great.

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Prevent Anti-Marketing with Genchi Genbutsu

Windows VistaWhile I have been working on a number of new posts, I found out that there is not only good marketing and bad marketing, there is also something that I would like to call “anti-marketing”. This is to mean messages sent out by a company that effectively destroy reputation and brand image. In one word: this is the antithesis of what marketing is supposed to achieve.

The perfect example of this is the Windows Vista box. Yes, the packaging of the OS itself. Imagine: you publish a new operating system. And you put it into a very fancy box that looks very shiny. And nobody can actually open the box WITHOUT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS on how to do so, because it is so complex and difficult to do.

Don’t believe me? Its true. There are even instructions on the Microsoft website on how to open it, with pictures!

The anti-marketing message for Vista in my eyes is: “It looks very flash and shiny on the outside, but it is highly complex to use. Even opening the box requires detailed photo instructions.”

This reminds me of one of Toyota’s management principles genchi genbutsu “go and see for yourself”. This principle states that unless you have seen and experienced something first hand, you will find it very difficult to truly evaluate it. There is a very good book on this topic, call The Toyota Way that I can recommend. Toyota

What struck me is that genchi genbutsu not only has usefulness in production, product management or trouble shooting, but in marketing, too. Unless you are yourself using the products that your company produces in the same way as your customers would, how can you truly understand what messages your product is sending out to your custumers and buyers? And if you don’t truly understand these messages, you will probably have a hard time to effectively market your products.

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