Kindle, Apple, Committment and Consistency

There’s a lot of buzz today because Strand Consulting put out a report saying that iPhone users are suffering from the iPhone syndrome – the equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.

9to5 Mac cover just the Strand research (or lack thereof) and leave it to the commenters to rip apart Strand Consulting. Strand deserve it. 

Their ‘research article’ title?

How will psychologists describe the iPhone syndrome in the future?

It’s really, really amusing to read about Strand’s delusion that they’ve discovered something new.

A Quick Introduction to Committment and Consistency

What Strand are talking about is actually called Committment and Consistency – its fundamental human nature.

Robert Cialdini was the first to put it into words (to the best of my knowledge) and described it exceedingly well –

Commitment and Consistency – When people commit to a product or goal or idea they become vested in it. After that they behave in a way to show consistency with their decision and they keep increasing their committment to the product or idea (provided something drastic doesn’t change things).

In terms of products – When a person buys a product they will start getting more and more committed to it and it becomes a part of their identity. After that they will behave in a way that is consistent with them being committed to that product. 

That means –

  1. Any slight to the product is a slight to them. 
  2. They cannot see the product’s shortcomings. 
  3. They overemphasize the product’s strengths.

Not making fun of Apple people

Committment and Consistency is not something that just affects Mac users and iPhone users. 

  1. It happens across all products – Even with the Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony Reader you see a lot of people who get very vested in their eReader. 
  2. It happens with Sports and Sports Fans.
  3. If happens with work.
  4. It happens with countries.
  5. It even happens with our relationships. It’s why most people are very slow to get out of a bad relationship.

Since we are reluctant to admit our own nature we don’t see it’s committment and consistency – to us it seems perfectly rational.

Kindle, Apple and How Committment and Consistency manifests

With Apple

It’s pretty straightforward –

  1. Owners of one Apple product tend to get committed to Apple and behave consistently and end up owners of multiple Apple products. The iPhone’s success has more to do with the success of the iPod than the ‘great design’. (though it’s present – iPhone owner speaking 😉 ).
  2. Apple owners are quick to defend Apple products (sometimes irrationally). Even I’m guilty of this – here’s a post defending the iPhone against Android
  3. News of the Droid selling out in 3.5 hours in the UK triggered this thought – ‘They must have just 10,000 Droids to create artificial demand’. That’s classic committment and consistency – although the Droid sales manipulation part is probably true 😉 .
  4. Being consistent with being an Apple owner for some people means attacking every competing product – Check out any Mac forum.  

With the Kindle

To be fair Amazon isn’t stirring up the sort of ‘Us against the World’ fever that Apple does with its commercials. However, you still see Committment and Consistency kick in –

  1. See a Kindle in Your City – People are willing to take the time and effort to show off their Kindles to prospective Kindle Owners.  
  2. Kindle owners basically kept the Kindle alive through the non-stop negativity of the Press. 
  3. Most of the good work and helping of people you see on eReader blogs (Kindle Chronicles, Kindle World) and kindle forums is Kindle owners.
  4. There are even a handful of owners going on the Nook Forum and attacking the Nook.

With eReaders

There’s a rather amusing pattern –

  1. Sony owners seem not to care about Read To Me or Free Internet or Wireless Downloads. Until the Daily Edition shows up and then they think it’s a good feature.
  2. Nook owners seem not to care about Speed or the shipping delays. They don’t mind the bugs since it’s a 1st generation product.   
  3. Kindle owners seem not to care about Library eBooks to be fair hardly any are available. That little strike through is committment and consistency at work.

Even a valuable feature like wireless downloads becomes ‘not a big deal’ due to committment and consistency. Lots of Sony owners would write things like – ‘It takes me just 15 seconds to buy on my PC and do a USB transfer. It’s not a big deal‘.

Committment and Consistency is why Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for PC are such excellent gateway drugs

All the anti-Kindle people who are overjoyed about Kindle for iPhone potentially killing the Kindle would be shocked if they knew how powerful Committment and Consistency is.

Once you become a ‘Kindle for iPhone’ owner you are much likelier to become a Kindle owner.

Consider this comment from ElianaStar (no wonder comments are the highlight of my day) –

I got an iPhone for my birthday last year. I saw the Kindle App for the iPhone and said, “well, why would I want to pay more than $250 for another device JUST to read books when I can do it on my brand spankin’ new iPhone?”

Well, I downloaded a few books to my iPhone “Kindle.” Read several of those books on my iPhone “Kindle”…

… and then I bought a new REAL Kindle. BECAUSE of the iPhone Kindle App.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the iPhone Kindle… at all… other than the profoundly small screen and backlight glaring into my face when I read. But, BECAUSE of the Kindle App on my iPhone, I HAD to have the real deal.

I know a half-dozen other people who did/thought the same thing I did. They have either already gotten a real Kindle… BECAUSE of their Kindle App on their iPhone… or have one on their “all I want for Christmas/Birthday is a real Kindle” list.

A Kindle for iPhone owner is more likely to buy the Kindle, not less.

There is more and more committment at each point –

  1. Getting Kindle for iPhone.
  2. Using Kindle for iPhone.
  3. Buying Kindle Edition Books from Amazon. 
  4. Every instance of using the Kindle for iPhone App.

Each of those actions is one tiny little step towards being a Kindle owner.

How can you work around Committment and Consistency?

Well, you can’t really. The best you can do is to be aware of it and factor it in – you’ll probably only be able to temper it, not remove it completely.

Tempering it is good enough though because everyone suffers from it – It’s just a good idea to not get deluded to the point where you’re waiting 1.5 years for the next great Flip camcorder.  

It is a very tough balancing act.

Committment and Consistency is only bad when it’s used to manipulate

At its core committment and consistency is good –

  • It brings us closer to people, adds to our identity, and makes things easier.
  • It’s the foundation for a lot of good things – loyalty to our families, committment to our countries.
  • The danger is that because they are so well ingrained there aren’t really any defences against our psychological triggers.
  • So it’s good to be aware of Committment and Consistency and know when a company is being manipulative.

Kindle, Apple, Xbox, Google – Every day there are people committing to the idea and the brand. It’s only bad if you go overboard with your committment.

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