robin_d_laws (robin_d_laws) wrote,
robin_d_laws
robin_d_laws

The iPad, Sales Resistance, and You

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On Saturday, as I ate Easter dinner with Valerie's folks, I snuck vicariously hits of geekly excitement via Twitter and Facebook. Across the pond, we had the new Dr. Who. (Don't tell me. It airs here in a couple of weeks.) And below the 49th, the iPads were rolling in.

With the excitement came the negativity. If you're jazzed about the Big New Whatever, the counter-reaction can be dismaying. The example of the iPad can instruct those of us weighing reactions to our own Modest New Whatevers, whenever we happen to release them into the wild.

You'd expect two reactions to a newly arrived and anticipated product: excitement and indifference. What you tend to see instead is a highly polarized split between excitement and annoyance. Intense negativity is usefully understood as sales resistance. Modern consumerism trains us to want stuff, and to find social inclusion in the objects we choose to own. We of the geek tribe feel this pull this in spades, and my bank account, such as it is, thanks you for that. Those of us who aren't Bill Gates have to talk ourselves out of all kinds of tempting purchases. The greater the excitement surrounding a BNW, the greater the subliminal pressure to join the tribe. Bigger pressure requires stronger sales resistance. Combine that with the Internet's demonstrated utility as an all-purpose complaint receptacle, and blammo, you get the negativity flood that counters any surge of product interest. Which in turn causes cognitive dissonance in the happy and excited legions who've taken the selling points on board.

This is not to dismiss the content of anti-iPad comments in particular. Over the long term, it might or might not justify its BNW status. Although I find it overblown, I do respect the open platform argument made by folks like Cory Doctorow, who want to buy a toolbox and not a user experience.

On the other hand, if this device, or something like it, becomes ubiquitous, the transformative potential for tabletop gaming is enormous. Time will, as the TV news cliché has it, tell.

To move from the specific to the general, the parable of the iPad can provide perspective for creative types the next time they release a new thing and see it turn into flamebait. When people who aren't planning to buy your New Thing are trashing it, remember that a large chunk of this is actually sales resistance. Your most vitriolic detractors are talking themselves out of buying. Sometimes their efforts will fail, and they'll make the purchase. Then they'll either resent you even more (if they're disappointed) or join the ranks of the converted.

Once understood as such, you can filter out the emotional sting of attacks on your work and engage the content of the critique to whatever extent it dispassionately deserves. Personally, I'm always more interested in what confuses people than in what they hate or even love. That's where the room for improvement and explication lies.

As usual for any point made in a single blog post, sales resistance isn't the only factor. But that's a story for yet another day on the proverbial riverbank...

Tags: gaming hut, marketing, tablets, tech, writing life
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