It's hardly a new idea, but BullJustin
points us to an article in Wired about what the author, Robert Capps, refers to as The Good Enough Revolution
, in which he talks about various offerings that have succeeded in the marketplace, despite not having the "quality" of the leading products. So, he talks about the Flip Digital video cameras, compared to higher end camcorders, mp3s vs. CDs, and things like Zoho Writer vs. Microsoft Word. His explanation is that these "lower quality" products are "good enough," and tend to offer certain features, such as easier accessibility, lower price and better ease of use.
I'd argue that the concept of "good enough" misses the point -- and the real issue is that the actual quality
is in those other characteristics that he discusses. The real
problem is that some start to focus on the "quality" of some aspect of the product, rather than the quality of meeting what the consumer wants. It's the same thing we've discussed over and over again, with a company (or industry) not really understanding its market. The first automobiles were a lot crappier than the fancy horse carriages you could buy -- but they did the important thing better: getting you somewhere faster and cheaper.
The issue is that the focus on "quality" is on the wrong attribute. It's also why many people falsely claim that the VHS beat Betamax, despite "lower quality." Yes, it may have had lower quality of the recorded video, but that wasn't the attribute people cared about. They wanted to be able to record longer videos, which the Betamax was not set up to do, but VHS was. In almost every one of these stories, you find that it really was an issue of quality -- but the real question was what attribute the market cared about when it came to quality.
With the MP3 and the Flip Camera and Zoho Writer (and many others), it appears convenience is a driving attribute. So while all may seem to have less in terms of the type of "quality" that some like to focus on, they ignore what the market actually wants, which appears to be convenience.
This, too, is one of the reasons why it doesn't make sense to get so focused on the product when you don't know what the market actually wants. The people who create the initial products almost always assume that the most important attributes are the product itself, rather than the convenience it provides users. There will always be snobs who want to focus on the "highest quality" possible, but they're part of a small market, rather than a mass market. And if that's "good enough" for them, that's fine -- but it misses the real marketing opportunity.