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Would you pay more to have less?

In a world where we can't get enough and it's more, more, more...have we reached a turning point where we're willing to pay more for less?

It's that time of year again - the time I traditionally start writing my list of 'what gifts to buy' for people who probably don't need them. Feeling somewhat uninspired, I turned to a shopping catalogue and as I flicked through the pages, I came across something that surprised me. It was this advertisement for a mobile phone.

In our fast-paced, digital world we've become accustomed to the idea that 'more is better' - especially where mobile devices are concerned. More data, greater photo clarity, more memory etc. Yet this mobile phone advertisement was different.

No fancy camera; no music player, no downloads; no video games and no wifi. It was a teenagers worst nightmare.

Here was an example where the absence of features was the feature. It prompted me to consider whether, as our world becomes more complex and uncertain, this kind of advertising might grow in popularity. For example, might our desire for simplicity (or less choice) mean we see more hotels advertising 'No wifi' or an increased popularity in 'set menu' restaurants?

I decided to do a bit of internet research and typed 'unplugged holidays' into my search engine. The results showed me this time had well and truly arrived as my computer returned over 400,000 entries.

Then I wondered, was it possible we could reach a point where we were willing to paymore for less features ie. less choice. I initially dismissed the idea but then I saw the cost of the featureless phone above. It was $137 when the smart-phone equivalent next to it, with all the latest features, was $97.

While this brief moment of contemplation didn't help me with my gift list, it beautifully illustrates one of the immutable rules of business. Focusing on customer need (ie. in this case 'the desire for simplicity') leads to greater customer value which in turn, drives greater commercial value. It also illustrates the risks of falling in love with one's own product and being obsessed with maximising features, instead of making what the customer wants.

Just a thought...


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Kate Christiansen has spent 20 years adapting large organisations to strategic change. She partners with CEOs and their Executive Teams to develop the clarity, capability and confidence needed for superior adaptive performance. Kate is author of The Thrive Cycle: Unlock The Adaptive Organisation Within. To discover more, visit


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