Simplicity as a Market Strategy

WordPress, Google Calendar, and Apple’s iPhone have a disarming simple-mindedness that is one of the keys to their market leadership.

In certain respects they’re so simple you have to wonder why a lot of people wouldn’t just be infuriated and give up on them, and yet their simplicity is cute in a way that encourages customers to advance their cause way beyond what is normal.

In the case of WordPress, an open-source blogging tool which you use either by installing it on your own server or by creating an account on a WordPress server, one element of its simplicity is that every new blog entry you write is posted by default with the posting date/time to the top of a stream of entries going down (or back) from the present. Further, many WordPress templates provide a calendar widget on which entry dates automatically are highlighted with links to these entries. That’s basically it; there isn’t much more to the usage model, although there are a lot of tweaks and management you can carry out fairly intuitively by poking around in the WordPress dashboard page.

With WordPress, there’s a lot more you COULD do, but it isn’t necessary. So I and millions of other users recommend it to everyone contemplating starting a blog because it’s so simple that there’s very little downside in doing so.

Google Calendar’s simplicity is that there’s very little to using it and you can access it (log into your version of it) from a browser anywhere — home, office, laptop, cell phone (you do have a cell phone with a web browser, don’t you?) — so it extricates you from the 90’s problem of synchronizing your calendars, some of which would have been Outlook. Like WordPress, the basic model in Google Calendar is ridiculously simple. Just click on the calendar to pop open an entry line and type something that seems like it could be interpreted as an entry, say “11/2 12pm R. Cheung – Sungari 1st and Yamhill” and it will show up in the calendar at that date/time from any browser.

Google has not needed to do anything to market Google Calendar (which has been “BETA” for a long time), because, again, I and millions of people recommend it to everyone we know as a calendar solution, because there is very little downside and every chance that people will stop needing support for Outlook. In a lot of cases, people may still be required to run Outlook in their offices, but Google Calendar can blow right past all of that by word of mouth.

In the case of Apple’s iPhone, most of the functions are laughably simple. For example, the “camera” tool has no zoom or any other controls, and the “iPod” tool has no back or forward control, so all you can do is start/stop play, etc. But this also makes it impossible for me and (now) over a million other people not to demo it to everyone who asks, because it is so simple to demo.

Some cell phone makers seem to have expected they could ignore Apple’s market entry, because there really are no new functions on Apple’s phone and the thinking was that what you can do on a cell phone is pretty limited, anyway. But by making the Apple cell phone basically ALL DISPLAY, and a dramatically larger display, and finger operated, which is incontrovertibly cute, it would be demoed like crazy compared to other cell phones.

So in all three of these cases, simplicity is part of a strategy of redefining the market’s expectation of how to carry out a task in a way that the standing competitor(s) can’t begin to match for marketing-less viral promotion.

Leave a Reply