The Comfort Curve

This is what working smarter looks like
This is what “working smarter, not harder” looks like

Over the last few months my company has made a very intentional effort to “work smarter, not harder”.  Hat tip to good ‘ole dad for ingraining that mantra in my head at an early age.  

We build and sell apps, then sell [and help our customers sell] the advertising spaces on those apps.  “Working smarter” means that we have been “increasing the value of our current apps”.  Translated to non-marketing speak, that means we’ve been adding a whole new smorgasbord of advertising options to the apps.  By introducing new and different types of mobile ads, we generate more revenue.

But there is a dark side…

After all of these new ad units, the audience is confused and upset.  Here’s a sample quote from the reviews in the app stores:

“They shove ads right in the middle of the stories cutting them in half.  When you go to look through pics in a story half of those are ads too…and there are the banners at the bottom.  A good third of all content is ad related.  I will avoid all advertised products and services”

But what gives? Visit just about any news website. You’ll see similar ad units, if not worse.  Watch any TV program and have your viewing experience interrupted for 90 – 180 seconds with commercials.  I say this not argue advertising one way or the other, but to point out a simple observation.  The audience is outside their “comfort curve” in mobile.  This is new territory we’re crossing, people aren’t used to it, and therefore have a visceral reaction to the change.

Ever get pissed that Facebook changed their layout?  What did you do?  Did you quit, or just get used to it?

Over time, you and everybody else, get used to changes in your favorite products, or you quit them entirely if the pain is too high.  For those that stick around, here’s how I visualize this comfort curve.

The Comfort Curve
click to embiggen

Over time, you’ll end up comfortably numb to the changes.  Hell yeah, Pink Floyd reference in a boring business blog post.

While this example is specific to mobile advertising, it can be universally applied to any new change or experience thrust upon a group.  I found myself perturbed when the buttons change on computer screen of the self-checkout lane at the grocery store.  How dare they?!

If there’s a lesson in here somewhere, it’s to expect negative reaction to any change you make with your product. Expect it to even out as the comfort curve approaches comfortably numb.

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