Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Innovation Errors

Case study: Creative Zen.

Presumably, the name was chosen to reflect the "zen" of the iPod. Except Creative's brand guys forgot something fairly obvious: that calling something "zen", well, kind of defeats the entire point.

Now, this may sound minor - but brands have very little space to express themselves; a few words, images, ideas - that's it. Getting this much wrong at the beginning means that the whole brand is an exercise in contradictory recursion - and so it can never have any coherence.

Then there's the Zen Neeon - an even better example of contradiction. Anything that's Zen almost, by definition, can't also be neon (perhaps a single neon light, general, no); they have exactly the opposite associations. Another exercise in contradiction.

Let me not forget the Zen Sleek. Again, using a word like "sleek" contradicts the point of zen - not to have to express ideas explicitly in the first place. Not to mention the fact that something may be sleek; it's branding should leverage that property, not just parrot it (otherwise, what's the point of the brand?!).

This lack of coherence feeds through to the product design, which is about as Zen as a lawnmower - rough edges, strange ridges, out of place lines, unbalanced shape, bad display, etc.

Of course, Creative would argue that they're targeting market segments who don't care about these issues. That's a thinly veiled way of saying that they think people that can't or won't spend iPod money on MP3 players are stupid. There's an existence proof against this: Zen is a dominated product, and a dominated brand.

-- umair // 6:25 AM // 1 comments


Yo Umair,

you are f*ing right on the money. Sorry, I usually do not indulge in swearwords. Nice piece. I've always thought that creative labs made somehow messy and badly executed products. But yeah - Zen and Neon? Again, your post is pure poetry.

Chris (I had previously challenged your price discrimination piece for music downloads)
// Anonymous Anonymous // 12:55 AM

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