At the headquarters of the Gucci Group there is a plaque that inks the Gucci Family Slogan, “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” And for years, many of us in the marketing and sales community have lived by similar versions of the same code: Quality First, Quality Control, Total Quality Management and etcetera. But in the new world of New Media, is there actually any value to quality?
Here are four examples of the hottest new media trends I observed in 2006 and what I would argue is the distinctly anti-quality nature of each of them:
Blogs: I know we are a pretty biased crowd here at OneDegree so let’s just suffice it to say that it is inarguable that blogs are an ever-increasing way that an ever-increasingly large group are accessing their daily news and editorial media.
Anti-bloggers would argue that user generated blog content is unprofessional and lacks quality. I totally agree with them. Let’s take this blog for example. I threw it together in an hour or two, maybe read it over once more for glaring errors and then sent it to Ken for review. Maybe he’ll catch the spelling mistakes, likely he’ll leave in the grammatical errors and possibly even a factual error or two because in the end, who the hell am I anyway, just some guy talking. But this is exactly the point.
Those who would argue that blogs lacks merit because they lack quality are missing the boat. The popularity of blogs has little to do with their ability to fit a traditional media quality mold. Their appeal is almost anti-quality in nature and speaks to value attributes that exceed quality.
Video: Many would agree that the hottest trend in video in 2006 was user-generated video content like that seen on sites like YouTube.com. Traditional media representatives and advertisers alike are stepping all over each other to put deals together with these sites or to buy them out completely because of what they see as their huge consumer appeal. Again here though, the quality and professionalism of this new media is downright terrible. In fact, some of the most popular downloads are almost “unwatchably” bad. But again, to a certain degree, this is the point with this new media. There is something else going on in the appeal-o-meter that goes beyond picture and content quality.
Music: So what’s happening in music these days? I remember when the big thing was to have the best quality sound systems with the best quality super-speakers with woofers and tweeters and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t really understand. Now, it’s digital music swapping and iPods. And anyone who would like to argue that the sound quality of a downloaded song played over those crappy white earpieces from an IPOD rivals the sound quality of even a 1980’s Sony Walkman would be kidding themselves. Half the songs are too loud or too soft, or have funny noises in them. Let’s face it, again, there is something else going on here besides the drive for ultimate sound quality.
Image Content: My father was a photography and home-movie nut. He followed us around everywhere snapping shots on his SLR Nikon with all the big expensive lenses and his 20 lb home movie camera. Going back and looking at his shots of the family from the 70’s and comparing them to the shots we take today, there is simply no comparison. I take the family shots and video’s today either with a small digital camera or with my wife’s phone and then post them to sites like shutterfly.com or youtube.com for all the family to see. These devices produce plentiful, fun, but comparatively low quality images of the family vacations. But yet, SLR camera sales are down and video camera phones are selling themselves right off the shelves. People are making image content choices beyond quality and increasingly, this style of image is being copied by the mainstream media to fit into this trend.
So if each of these examples demonstrates that in the world of new media, Quality is out, then what is in? In all of these examples, I would argue the consistent theme is a trade off in quality in exchange for three other more captivating value attributes: convenience, connectivity and most interestingly, authenticity. Convenience in that I want something small to carry or to download that works in every environment. Connectivity in that I would prefer to be connected to all networks rather than connected to one network. And authenticity in that I want to hear real voices speaking their real truths rather than listening to one pretty voice telling me what they think I want to hear so they can sell me more soap. I really don’t need more soap.
So for those of us in marketing and sales who have traditionally thought of quality as king (or queen for that matter), it’s time to shake up our thinking and focus on the new value attributes our customers are focused on.