Feature creep is the unfortunate consequence of companies constantly changing perfectly adequate products for “bigger and better” or “new and improved” ones.
By adding features that customers don’t need or don’t particularly care for, products become bulkier, confusing and difficult to use.
Why Does Feature Creep Happen?
Feature creep can happen for many reasons:
- The never-ending pressure to increase sales.
- The pressure to “stay ahead of the competition”
- Trying to please everybody by being all things to all people.
- Assuming that a customer wants A, when what they really want is B.
Here are a few real life examples of feature creep:
The software industry is notorious for launching new software versions loaded with useless features (instead of just fixing the bugs in the existing products), forcing customers to spend money on upgrades and new equipment and sending them back to square one of a new learning curve.
In the automotive industry, features like cup holders, heated seats and DVD screens, are making cars bigger, heavier and more expensive than ever.
BMW, once a vocal advocate of lean design focused on performance, is launching a new, smaller Series 1 after enthusiasts complained that the Series 3 had become too big and bloated.
The electronics and appliance industry is also among the worse offenders: average consumers don’t know how to use two-thirds of the buttons on a typical TV remote control unit.
In this other example, a customer is visibly annoyed by the 36 different keys on his microwave oven panel and fondly remembers how the first microwave ovens got the job done with just a dial timer and an on/off switch.
Feature Creep’s Implications on Branding
Branding is all about predictability and consistency. Every time you complicate things by adding useless features to your product (or when you try to be all things to all people) your customers get confused and your brand equity is diluted.
Change is good when it is driven by genuine customer requirements, not by your competition, the latest fad or your company’s VP’s. Also, change is more easily accepted when it is gradual and subtle enough so that your brand positioning remains clear and focused, and the branding signals remain familiar.
Think about this next time you are tempted to change or add more features to your products, your services, your website, your blog, your e-commerce site or any other customer touchpoints.