Sunday, March 4, 2007

The BETA Brand Pushing Things I Can't Have


I signed in to my Gmail account last week saw this new red link at the top of the page promoting New Features! When clicking on it it was about letting Gmail get mail from other accounts. Interesting, but I was very curious to read the bottom note that was in italics:

This feature is currently only enabled for a limited number of users. We're
working on making it more available soon. Look for it in the 'Accounts' tab in
Settings.
Google clearly likes to make you feel as if their offerings are for special people only. For example, you can't go to Google and just sign up for Gmail. They impose word-of-mouth distribution. When you get one it's you've gotten this special gem. Same thing here. I want this new feature even if I'm not going to use it. I think there's a smidgen of generating iPod envy going on here as well. Having the latest and coolest things regardless of need.

Keeping things in BETA forever adds to this experience as well. All web products are pretty much in this same mode of constantly updating things anyway, but Google and a lot of others brand it this way. The 'release early and often' model as a brand changes the customer experience.

ESPN.com has done this for a long time but it is not branded this way. They are constantly releasing new components on their homepage. Next time it would be interesting for ESPN to promote a new component with BETA branding. Already I want it! Their next step would then have to be that I can't have it unless another ESPN user gives it to me. I want it more and I don't even need it!

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