Saturday, March 11, 2006

A useless feature by any other name is still useless

Word discovery: feature fatigue
Citation: Interview with Dr. Roland D. Rust on 3.11.06 edition of NPR’s Weekend Edition. He explains the concept in his article, “
Feature Fatigue: When Product Capabilities Become Too Much of a Good Thing” in Journal of Marketing Research, 42, November 2005, 431-442. Co-authors are Deborah Viana Thompson and Rebecca W. Hamilton.
Usage: NPR interviewer explained the concept in terms of the ubiquitous cell phone with dozens of features that manufacturers hype to sell the item, but which consumers realize after buying that they will never use. Also in terms of the Mercedes automobile, whose manufacturer has removed a lot of features from its dashboard to simplify its use.
Meaning: The realization after buying and using a product that you don’t really need or want all the features hyped to sell you the product. Here is how Dr. Rust and his colleagues lead into their article:

As technology advances, it becomes more feasible to load products with a large number of features, each of which individually might be perceived as useful. However, too many features can make a product overwhelming for consumers and difficult to use.

Comment: I'm glad to see someone has a name for this. Often, as I'm watching television I see an ad for something and I wonder why on earth I'd want to buy something with all those unnecessary features. Do we really need a phone with a camera and games and silly sounding ringtones? Am I going to actually text message someone if I can call them? What I really want is a phone I can take with me away from home or office. Those other features are really needless toys.


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