But by using familiar form, TiVo mad people more comfortable adopting radical innovation, By hiding the technology in something that looked visually familiar, TiVo used similarity to make difference feel more palatable.
Many digital actions today visually evoke their analog ancestors. We click on the icon of a floppy disk to save documents and drag digital files to be thrown away in what looks like a waste bin. Visual similarity also shows up offline. High-end care often use fake wood grain on the dashboard and veggie burgers often have grill marks. All make the different seem more similar.
The opposite also holds. Design can be used to make incremental innovations feel more novel. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, it featured only minor technological improvements. But from a visual standpoint it was radically different. Rather than the same old black or grey box, the iMac was shaped like a gum drop and came in colors like tangerine or strawberry. The device was hugely successful, and design, rather than technology, created the needed sense of difference that encouraged people to purchase.
My favorite example of the power of specificity was Apple’s introduction of the iPod. They didn’t give it the vanilla, global “World Class MP3 Player” treatment. They said “1,000 Songs In Your Pocket.” They were specific. They talked about the virtues of the product, not wooly melodramatic horseshit.
My direction to the creative teams who worked for me was always the same – be specific. Today the objective is to ignore the specific and “ladder up” the benefit.
Horse Power was comparison everyone could understand.
Suddenly, Watt had put the steam engine into a language that made sense to the layman. Which is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he launched the iPod.
He didn’t compare it to to other MP3 players for speed and fidelity.
That would have been a market-share comparison.
Steve Jobs had a much bigger opportunity in mind, market-growth.
That’s why he compared the iPod to something ordinary people could understand.
He simply held it up and said “A thousand songs in your pocket.”
Because 200 years later the rules for creative communication haven’t changed. You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours.
You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left, John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90 per cent of the work. And if you tell all these other people “Here’s this great idea”, then of course they can go off and make it happen. And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product… Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together.
The same approach can be used to communicate initial product value. Steve Jobs used anchoring during the launch of the Apple iPad to such effect. At one of his fames launch presentations, he introduced the “rumoured cost” that was speculated to be $999. This information anchored the press to the notion this would be the high-priced product. However, when Jobs later in the event revealed the iPad to be priced at $499, this “anchoring and reveal” tactic created a notion of value for money.
Excerpt from: Northstar
In 1985, at the dawn of the computer age, the psychologist Susan Belmore conducted a simple experiment on twenty undergraduates at the University of Kentucky. The students were exposed to eight different short texts and then asked to answer a series of questions about what they’d just read. Four of the passages appeared on paper (a sheet of white bond, single-spaced, forty-seven characters per line) and four appeared on the monitor of an Apple II Plus 48k computer. Belmore was curious if reading the text on a screen might influence both the speed of reading and levels of comprehension.
The results were depressing, at least if you were an early adopter of computer technology. “These data indicate that reading texts on a computer display is not equivalent to reading the same texts on paper,” Belmore wrote. “Overall, college students took 12 percent longer to read and comprehended 47 percent less with computer-presented text.”