Good Enough Ain't Good Enough

At the risk of becoming one of those blogs that just tells you what’s on other blogs, I’ve the good and the bad from Seth Godin (we’ll save the ugly for some other day.)

I’ll start with:

The Good:
With Tuesday’s publication of his book small is the new big, Seth’s been on a new media blitz. He’s been interviewed for blogs and podcasts across the marketing web, and in my humble opinion, the best of these was on Mark Ramsey’s blog hear2.o with Seth riffing on the future of radio, as he sees it.

Seth Godin on Radio’s Future

Best quote:

If you’re in radio today, you have a spectacular asset: The ability to communicate to people directly who want to hear from you. But it’s a wasting asset. And big media companies refuse to acknowledge the fact that their licenses are gonna be worth less in ten years than they were ten years ago. And they’re trying very hard to keep their head in the sand and ignore that.

The Bad

That same day, Seth also posted a piece on his blog that has me wondering:
a. Is he kidding?
b. Is this just a ploy to have everyone who reads it pull their hair out, so Seth won’t be the only bald guy in the room?

In his post, titled Good Enough, he says:

I wonder, though, if “good enough” might be the next big idea. Audio players, cars, dryers, accounting… not the best ever made, not the most complicated and certainly not the most energy-consuming. Just good enough.

Umm, Seth, have you heard what an iPod (or any MP3 player for that matter) sounds like? Have you used a cell phone lately? The makers of the audio devises we use every day are already getting by with good enough. I could rant for hours about the whole sound quality issue, and never get past the “yeah, but my iPod only cost $100, and I can take it wherever I go, and I don’t have to listen to stuff I don’t like” argument.

Being in the audio business, we see it every day, whether it’s the home recorded voice over demo MP3 that’s been compressed incorrectly, and gives the artists’ voice that tell-tale “gummy teeth” sound, or whether it’s the prospective client who wants to save a few bucks, and record his own voice over for a video, we’re surrounded by “Good Enough”.

From a business perspective, is “Good Enough” really viable? The Yugo was good enough, haven’t seen one of those lately though. There are dozens of companies that manufacture audio equipment that’s good enough, just check the shelves of any MegaLowMart and you’ll find the least-common-denominator, good enough approach, hell, check the shelves of any eletronics retailer, and most of what’s on the shelf is “good enough.”

There will always be companies that use “good enough” as their strategy, and many will do well, but fortunately, not all companies will follow that creedo. Just take a look at some of the companies that Seth has riffed on in the past, Starbuks, hell look at one of his best selling books, Purple Cow, the subtitle of which is: “Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”. Hopefully Seth’s post isn’t clue to his next book: Just Another Cow: Good Enough for Whatever.

  • jes

    I never respond to most of these blogs but I tend to agree with Seth. In reading your blog on “good enough”, unless your a professional (like you) or you’re music saavy and want to hear the high notes in a classical music piece, the product on the market is for the general public. Tried a cell phone lately? I wanted a new one so i stopped by my local cell phone store, walked out completly confused.I going to keep my old one for now. I’m thinking “good enough is good enough). First time on your site, very enjoyable! jes

  • Hey Jes:

    I do understand that sometimes, adding bells and whistles to a product doesn’t make it better, just more confusing. My “beef” is that in the rush to simplify, quality has gone out the window. Sure you can hear your favorite tunes from your iPod whenever or wherever you want, but the sound quality is terrible. Play that MP3 on a system with a decent set of speakers, and it;s like a different song.

    Sure I’d like to hear every note that a composer wrote for a classical piece, but I also want to hear everything Elvis Costello wrote on “Pump It Up” too.

    You’re right about cell phones, there’s such a rush to cram as much technology into the smallest footprint, that new doesn’t always mean better. However, new or old, the quality of the sound they reproduce is horrible, and that hasn’t improved. Can you hear me now? What? Can you hear me now? What!?!?

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by!

  • I think you miss the point. Good enough is determined by the customer not by the producer. Simply put, in terms of audio products, if my market is the music industry, good enough is different than if my market is made up of 12-year-olds. Like Seth, as a marketer I am befuddled by manufacturers who make products for themselves rather than for their target markets. Sometimes a towel is just a towel, and that’s good enough.

  • Harvard Business Review Working Knowledge says
    “.. [F]rustrated product owners . . . will spread the word of their dissatisfaction. This appears to be the case with BMW, whose 7 Series cars feature the complicated iDrive system, which offers about 700 capabilities requiring multifunction displays and multistep operations—even for functions that formerly required the twist of a knob or the flick of a switch. BMW included instruction sheets in the glove compartment because it is almost impossible to give the car to a valet parker without an impromptu lecture. According to industry news reports, sales of the 7 Series in the United States in the first half of 2005 were down about 10 percent relative to the same period in 2004. Past studies have established the power of positive word of mouth and the much greater prevalence of its negative form—and most of those studies were conducted before the Internet gave every dissatisfied party a global sphere of influence.”
    …”In 2004, Stephan Wolfsried, vice president for electrical and electronic systems and chassis unit at DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes Car Group, said that integrating all those functions caused truly important electronic parts to malfunction occasionally and made testing the system more expensive. Moreover, Wolfsried said, the functions were ones that “no one really needed and no one knew how to use.” One example he noted was the storage of a driver’s personal seat position in the car key. “It was done with good intentions, but if I take my wife’s key at some point and can’t find my own seat position any more, that tends to be annoying for me instead of comfortable.”

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  • John

    As a wise man (or woman) once said:
    “The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of a cheap price goes away.” But I think there’s been a radical shift in many marketplaces…let me explain:

    In my eyes, quality is a relative thing. This “thing” is a quality item compared to “thing 2.0”. There’s no way to know what quality is unless you have something to compare it to. But today’s marketplaces are so filled with mediocre items that you have nothing to compare them to. Listen to a cd through a great system and you think it sounds great, but listen to an LP through a great system and be prepared to be blown away. You’ll hear sounds you never know were there and feel bass sounds like you’ve never felt. But almost noone listens to LPs anymore so they have nothing to compare their CDs to, so they think they’re great, especially when compared to the sound on their iPod.
    Now I’m not here to bash the iPod, its a nice piece of technology. But it sounds lousy. Its relatively easy to use and is really portable and is good enough to listen to while walking or working out, etc…here we go again, its “good enough”. Especially when compared to its “good enough” counterparts in the marketplace.
    Which all leads to where I’ll apply this to what I try to do in my studio. I don’t aim for good enough, I aim for great. Do I always hit it? Absolutely not. But my quest for great brings me to levels I never thought I could reach.
    Great products are memorable and seem to hang around forever. ’57 Chevys were great and never go out of style. Ford Escorts were good enough and get re-made into beer cans daily. Its not marketing, its the product! Bottom line: Time is the final decider as to what is great and what is good enough. I’m not really a Beatles fan, but they were great and they’re on the radio every day. The Knack were good enough and most people are thinking right now “Who the hell are The Knack?”

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