Seth Godin writes today about an alleged dichotomy between products that customers “love” and products that customers find “unannoying.”
I think smart marketers at Apple work to make products that people love. Smart marketers at American Airlines ought to work at making an airline that isn’t annoying.
I find this false distinction hard to stomach. I’m pleased that he chose Apple to make his point, because it’s the very company I would point to when arguing that in fact, customers love products that aren’t annoying.
Customers’ love for Apple products over the years has been based in Apple’s unusual determination to prevent user annoyance. Where competitors decide “this is close enough,” Apple hunkers down and and goes the extra mile for a more sensitive, courteous experience.
Godin makes the point that some businesses (especially restaurants) thrive in spite of their annoyingness. The “Soup Nazi” character popularized by television’s Seinfeld serves as a good point of reference. Customers love the soup so much that they withstand, even celebrate, an abusive relationship with the business owner.
I know this phenomenon exists in real life, but the kind of “captive love” he’s describing has more to do with human respect for confidence, even arrogance, when it is well earned. It only really works for a business if we also love the product. We love to watch the pursuit of perfection, because it inspires similar pursuits in ourselves. An arrogant jerk who pursues a dream with diligence earns our respect and admiration. Steve Jobs fulfills this role himself as Apple’s prima-donna. We admire his pursuit of excellence in spite of his reputation for rudeness and callousness.
Steve Jobs may be annoying, but the single quality of Apple products that sets them most apart from others, is that they are less annoying than the alternative. And Apple’s customers really do love that.