I'm not sure when this happened but, New Year's Eve is now the most important sports day on the calendar. Back-to-back College Football Playoff games, including TCU vs Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale (a couple of guys wearing Hypnotoad shirts walked into the coffee shop when I was writing this); Alabama, who is probably the best team in the country, destroyed #9 Kansas State earlier in the day; ASU vs Arizona college basketball in Tempe; and what feels like a thousand hockey and basketball games.
The dumbest commercial on TV will show dozens of times throughout these games: the Google Pixel commercial. Google’s pitch to convince you to buy a new phone is a feature that allows you to scrub out unwanted things from the background of pictures. In one commercial, Giannis Antetokounmpo takes a selfie and scrubs out a guy eating a hot dog in the background. In another commercial, a guy takes a picture of his wife on a famous hike and scrubs out all the tourists in the background.
I’ve been able to scrub out things in the background of my pictures since 2005 when I first used Photoshop. You can go to the App Store and download a free app that can “magic erase” anything you want. Google is spending millions of dollars promoting a feature that isn’t unique.
The Google Pixel Pro is $899.
The crazy thing is, I’m sure that it’s working. Google isn’t dumb. They know their audience and it’s probably resonating with them. There would be no other reason to show this stupid feature in all of their commercials.
But, this has less to do with Google than it does with human behavior. We want the new thing because we want to stunt over our neighbors. Even if it's paying $1,000 just to say, hey look, I can remove that thing from my picture.
This has confounded many of us, including Henry Ford. Mr. Ford built durable and long-lasting cars. The problem is that you can’t sell more cars if people still drive the old ones. General Motors decided to come out with a new car every year that was slightly different than the previous model - the antithesis of Ford. Eventually, GM took Ford’s market share and Ford, reluctantly, had to start doing the same new-model-every-year thing.
Do we need a new iPhone every year? The iPhone is damn-near a perfect product; there isn’t much room for improvement. But Apple knows people will buy the new thing, so they’ll come up with one new feature or make it slightly faster and people will buy them.
There are many environmentalists that want to change consumerism. I think that's stupid. We shouldn't be butting our heads against human behavior. Instead, we should take advantage of this human quirk and design sustainable products around that. Want a new phone every year? Rent this one and exchange it next year. Apple updates iOS every year and after I update my phone, it feels like I have a new one.
Sex will always sell and people will always want to keep up with Joneses. Let’s use this to our advantage instead of slamming our collective heads repeatedly against the, “we can convince people to consume less,” wall.
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