What do Transformers, iPad, Dropbox and AuthorityLabs have in common?

Seems Bing has been caught copying Google’s search results. Such an accusation, if true, could have serious ramifications including a noticeable drop in Microsoft trust. Never copy your competitors. Do better.

The flip side is also true. It’s stupid to create useless features in an attempt to differentiate yourself in a crowded market. Here are a list of failures that doomed most of these companies forever.

All I wanted was robot that transformed, not a cap gun that\’s also a robot.

Go-Bots versus Transformers
There’s no way anyone has forgotten about Go-Bots, the retarded, cousin by marriage of the mighty Transformers. They transformed, they had a back story, but they aren’t being brought back by multi-million dollar movie trilogies. Their last attempt at relevance consisted of making cap guns that transformed into a poor excuse for any kind of toy, let alone a robot that was supposed to be advanced. It seems the Go-Bot makers misread their audience, forgetting that pre-teen boys were captivated by cool robots and that we could solve our gun needs elsewhere. With that, the magic was gone, as the Go-Bots weren’t even trying anymore. At least all the Transformers looked like they’d be somewhat functional robots if they became sentient.

Energy Drinks versus Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Lots of people like the energy that drinks like RockStar give them. Lots of people also like getting drunk. So why not combine them? Problem is, the oft-preferred Red Bull and vodka isn’t always easy to carry around, and can’t be manufactured in a mixed state, so a few energy drink companies launched products like Sparks and Four Loko in an attempt to bridge that gap. The combination of malt liquor and caffeine seemed ludicrous at the time, and still does, but that didn’t stop kids from buying a ton of them. In the end, the drinks were outlawed and continue to live in a bit of infamy. I’ll admit I’m unclear if Sparks or Four Loko started as energy drink or a malt liquor first, but either way, adding another ingredient made them lame.

iPads versus every other tablet
This just in: the iPad is a pretty big deal. Its competitors, such as the Galaxy Tab, are hard pressed to equal its success and in doing so, have decided that feature creep is more useful than simplicity, ease of use and excellent UI design. I’m fairly sure that the Galaxy Tab has a USB port, an ethernet jack, an SD card slot, a place to store keys, a place to store D&D cards and a monitor out port on the bottom, none of which do anything to convince me that it’s better than Apple’s offering. The Galaxy Tab could have added features like improved battery life or a higher-resolution screen, but ports seemed to be more important. I laugh when anyone that thinks a non-iPad tablet is any less cumbersome than a small laptop and especially a netbook.

Dropbox versus every competitor ever
Dropbox is a folder that syncs. Michael Wolfe said it best and no one in the cloud storage/syncing industry has come up with anything better than their simple offer. MobileMe offers their iDisk, but that requires permissions and sharing is off by default and it takes a long time to load and it’s not accessible by every browser. Dropbox, which doesn’t offer scheduled backups nor does it mount as a drive on your desktop is just a folder. That syncs.

AuthorityLabs versus every other page ranking software
SEO people, writers and anyone who uses the web to make money knows that where they rank for specific search terms is key to attracting new business and setting prices. Tracking rankings is a useful metric for both creating new content and a way to appease the ego of many an entrepreneur. They don’t always care how long people are on their sites, what pages they read or which URL they entered and exited on, but simply where their site will come up when a potential customer searches a specific term. AuthorityLabs offers this service and that’s it. It doesn’t try to eliminate Google Analytics nor does it do anything regarding fancy and useless like their own version of pagerank. It’s easy and that’s why it works.

Which pocket would you put this in?

The related term for this kind of thinking is “feature creep.” Whenever a company loses sight of their original goal, loses faith in the offering or misreads their customers, feature creep is there to further screw up their product/service.

Not everyone wants a working cap gun that transforms into a robot. Usually we just want a cool robot.

About Tyler Hurst

Tyler Hurst is a Phoenix-based writer, storyteller, sometimes marketing guy and full-time inspirator. He likes to think he can help people.

Filed under: Featured, Strategy