1. Create a non-typical, unexpected experience
2. Make sure the experience exceeds your customers’ expectations.
This is certainly true some of the time. Think of your experience the first time you tried searching on Google: First, the unexpected: a super-clean uncluttered interface in a world of ultra-busy yahoo-style pages that were hard to sort out. And second, delight in the search results: faster, more comprehensive, and closer to what you were looking for.
However, the world is full of examples of superior products or services that failed to gain traction. Pretty much everyone who used both says that Sony’s Betamax technology was a lot better than the VHS videotape recording that dominated home videos in the 1980sâ€”but VHS was substantially cheaper, and the home market really didn’t care about the quality difference.
I think Seth is missing one piece of the formula: a marketing strategy. For every “if you build it, they will come” scenario a la Google, there are dozens if not hundreds of failures. Not enough people knew about it, and not enough people came (and bought). Google succeeded in part because it was (and is) free, and because the search experience provided by Yahoo, Alta Vista, et al was so inadequate. Google was not an incremental step, but a huge leap. As was the Apple iPod compared to older technology like the Sony Walkman, and yet Apple didn’t rely on word-of-mouth, but used massive marketing and advertising.