Cover of Book

Cover of Book

Book excerpt at Fortune/CNN Money:  Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t (Broadway Books), by Kevin Maney.

In this adaptation from his new book, author Kevin Maney explains the tension between two key qualities and how a great brand got caught in a no-man’s-land between them.

We constantly, in our everyday lives, make trade-offs between fidelity and convenience.

Those trade-offs, and how they affect business, help explain why Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) hit a wall in 2007 — and why CEO Howard Schultz is still struggling to get his company’s mojo back.

Fidelity is the total experience of something. At a rock concert, for example, it’s not just the quality of the sound, which often isn’t as good as listening to a CD on a home stereo, but also everything else going on, like the crowd around you and the social cache of later telling people you saw the band live.

Convenience is how easy it is to get what you want. That includes whether it’s readily available, whether it’s easy to do or use, and how much it costs. If something is less expensive, it’s naturally more convenient because it’s easier for more people to get it.

Consumers are willing to give up convenience for great fidelity, or ditch fidelity for great convenience. But anything that offers just so-so fidelity and so-so convenience falls into a no-man’s-land of consumer apathy that I call the fidelity belly. That’s where music CDs, newspapers, and desktop Windows-based PCs find themselves today.

Read more at: Fortune/CNN Money