Don't Make Us Think

Can choice be a bad thing? After years of enjoying friends' Xbox 360s, I decided to go buy one of my own. But then which do you buy? Microsoft currently has four models of the Xbox 360 available. It is further complicated by the fact that some units have a newer version of the game consoles CPU and motherboard. It is all very frustrating. Do I get the premium or the elite? What store do I go to find the newer version? Shouldn't Microsoft have kept things simple? Sony isn't doing much better with the multiple versions of its PlayStation 3, either.

I am facing a similar dilemma with Apple. I want a new iPod. But which do I get? After owning an iPod Shuffle for a few years, I want to upgrade. Do I get the iPod Nano or the Classic? I definitely do not want an iPod Touch -- if you are going to spend that kind of money for that set of features, you should just go ahead and get an iPhone. And even if I do go with my first inclination, the iPod Nano, I then have to decide how much capacity I want and what color. Or maybe that would just be throwing money away -- perhaps it is worth waiting for the inevitable second version of the iPhone next year.

Consumers want choice, but at a certain point, adding a new model to the mix worsens the situation rather than improving it. Should companies make consumers agonize over a purchasing decision? What companies are also guilty of an over-complicated product lineup?

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2 Comments

  • Tim Nicol

    Kevin, you are describing what has been called the Anarchy of Choice. The cumulative effect of offering more and more niche products to more and more narrowly segmented consumer targets is to create a range that no-one can navigate easily. See "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz-subtitle why more is less. As a past marketer I plead guilty to adding to proliferation; as a consultant I am now trying to attone for my sins.

  • Joseph Allan

    Kevin, you are describing what has been called the Anarchy of Choice. The cumulative effect of offering more and more niche products to more and more narrowly segmented consumer targets is to create a range that no-one can navigate easily. See "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz-subtitle why more is less. As a past marketer I plead guilty to adding to proliferation; as a consultant I am now trying to attone for my sins.