Nobody Really Wants “Unlimited”

We see unlimited a lot these days. It’s a popular option. Maybe it’s unlimited food on a Chinese buffet line, unlimited color options, or unlimited bandwidth. Our interest lately has been in more options, more features, more content, and yes… maybe more chicken wings. There is an intriguing shift happening though that we may want to be aware of. Did you know that there is more content being created every 48 hours than there was between the start of mankind until 2003 (thanks to Gary Vaynerchuk for that nugget). There is so much content out there these days that unlimited is literally becoming obsolete. While the industrial revolution mindset may have been content creation, the industrial revolution is well over now (that’s a Seth Godin nugget for you). The new mindset needs to be one of creating context. While quality of content is still important, context is becoming the new king of the jungle. Even before the “knowledge” explosion of the internet, our drive was more features on our products and more options for consumers. Things changed.

This may have all started with no one else but Steve Jobs and that darn iTunes product. You don’t have to purchase the whole album anymore, you can just get the songs you want. Now with an Apple TV you can watch a whole season of your favorite TV show for $40. That’s a heck of a lot less than that $150 a month cable bill, and now I don’t have to pay for HGTV-3 or ESPN-7. You see, none of us really buy unlimited to get the unlimited part anymore. We only buy it for certain contextual reasons. What was once about options and choices is now about recommendations, suggestions, like products, and similar features. It’s why Pandora radio and iTunes will still beat out Spotify, and why local radio is still around even though it has been predicted to die about seven times in the past fifty years. These services provide context around unlimited content, and that’s what we really seek. As distribution becomes easier and content becomes immense, consumers will continue to be intrigued by options that provide everything they are looking for, but sans the kitchen sink.

How do we create context? You see it now through things like “your friends are watching…” or ” based on your history you may also like”. When you set up a Netflix account it asks you for your preferences so it can help create context around the massive amounts of content available. When Facebook implemented the “top news” feed it was increasing engagement by creating context around the massive amount of updates from you 3,000 “friends”. Foursquare is creating context around our physical world by letting us know what our friends are doing. Consider what this looks like for your organization. How can you take your features, products, information, or designs and start creating more context around them? How might you become more attractive to “nitch” markets and special interests? Maybe your customers don’t want 30 colors of widgets, but they want all 32 NFL team colors (see the context). This is not just organization, mind you. A paint store is organized, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to choose a wall color. What if the the paint was organized by context, and not color? I want to see colors for small bedrooms, colors for urban lofts, or colors for quaint farm homes. What if I could get color suggestions based on what I already have in my home, or I could see what my friend Billy put in his house. Presenting options this ways focuses our “unlimited” selection on your unique interests. Nobody really wants “unlimited”. We seek unlimited simply because it is more likely to have what we want. If we can create context around what people want, then we can operate in the right space for success.

Content fatigue is becoming a real thing (like those Bing commercials, you know). Our challenge is to ditch the mindset that customers want access to everything, and start to create context around our products and services so our customers know we have what they are specifically looking for.

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