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Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don't Paperback – August 17, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Joining the nonfiction tradition of redefining simple concepts in terms of more complicated ones, technology journalist Maney presents theories of fidelity (consumer experience) and convenience (ease of getting/using products) to explain the success or failure of marketable goods. Terms like "fidelity swap" and "fidelity belly" are rife, but Maney's explanations boil down to the conflict between ego gratification and straight-up laziness: visit McDonalds, and you get an easy (cheap) meal while impressing nobody; attend Harvard and you'll impress people, but at an inconvenience cost of hard work and big money. Maney's plethora of examples range from Wal-Mart and Starbucks to newspapers and fashion labels: "A big part of fidelity is derived from a product's aura and identity... thus, $20,000 for a Hermes bag." Some honest insights do crop up-"High convenience is not about love, but about need... about habit"; "Mass is about convenience, and luxury is about fidelity. They can't coexist"-which might clue in general readers to the forces behind their shopping choices, but should prove old hat for experienced business readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A rare book that leaves you with a simple but profound way to build stronger products, organizations, and careers.  Trade-Off introduces one of those ideas that will stick in your mind for decades. Get ready to re-think what differentiates success from failure.”
--Tom Rath, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Strengths Based Leadership

“What’s new out there, what’s good, and will it be around tomorrow? Kevin Maney has written a provocative and original exploration of some of the mysteries of our consuming lives: why, for instance, has Apple stayed hot and Motorola gone cold? Will Starbucks and Wal-Mart and American Airlines flourish or flop? Required reading for all CEOs; intriguing and entertaining for the rest of us.”
--Harold Evans, author of They Made America: Two Centuries of Innovators

“This book demystifies success in the marketplace. Buy it, read it, learn from it and use it.”
--Keith Ferrazzi, bestselling author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back

“Moving deftly from Crocs to the Kindle, to Ozzy Osborne, to the daily newspaper, Kevin Maney shows how the trade-off between fidelity and convenience can make or break a business.  He shares several success stories, of course. But even better, he tells us about some serious commercial bloopers. These cautionary tales alone are worth the price of this terrific book.” 
-- Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

"Trade-Off by Kevin Maney shows how the tug-of-war between quality and convenience can make or break a product, a brand, or even a company. This book puts a new slant on why we make the choices we make in the marketplace. A fresh and fascinating read!"
--Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager and Leading at a Higher Level

“Packed with historical and contemporary case studies, Trade-Off is a practical guide to overcoming business dilemmas and steering your company toward long-term success.   Kevin Maney offers straight talk about choosing winning strategies that will keep your brand strong.”
--Tom Kelley, bestselling author of The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation

“Unputdownable!  Trade-Off will change the way you think about why some things–iphones or Coach bags–take off, while others fall by the wayside.  It you want to understand why the marketplace works the way it does, read it–then read it again.”
--Linda Kaplan Thaler, bestselling author of The Power of Nice and The Power of Small

“ Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling books Outliers and Blink, Maney presents a seemingly simple premise and the evidence to support it -- as well as various factors that can complicate it.”

“Worth a read for another take on shifting ideas of quality.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1 edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385525958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385525954
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #762,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Compromises are inevitable and usually involve a trade-off in one form or another. In the business world, Kevin Maney suggests that there is an ever-present tension between quality and convenience, more specifically between what he calls "high-fidelity" and "high-convenience." He provides in this volume what Jim Collins suggests in the Foreword, a "strategic lens" that "does not in itself give an answer about what you should do, and not do. Rather - and much better - it forces you to engage in a powerful question, from which you derive your own insight and make your own decisions...The power of a strategic concept [such as the one Maney shares] lies first and foremost in giving us a lens and a stimulus for hard thinking and hard choices. The critical question is not its universal truth, but its usefulness. And in this, I think Kevin Maney has extracted a very useful framework."

Maney cites the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, as an example of a business leader who obviously did some hard thinking before making a critically important decision. During a program at a conference that Maney attended, "Hastings said that his strategic decisions at Netflix were driven by one simple core principle: People are willing to trade the quality of an experience for the convenience of getting it, and vice versa." It occurred Maney that Hastings' core concept "was a terrific lens for viewing the way the world works. It can be an invaluable insight when dreaming up new products, when positioning brands, when planning company strategy, or when analyzing competitors."

Each day, business leaders are required to make decisions that involve trade-offs of one kind or another. I agree with Maney that "how they play out in the marketplace is the key to countless business successes and failures.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jim Muccio on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Kevin Maney's new book, "Trade Off - Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don't", we are treated to a simple world set apart from the latest theories on the complexity of our economic systems. Most intellectuals writing on the subject today will tell you how truly difficult it is to understand market pressures and the dynamics that determine what happens in our commercial market place. Even Malcolm Gladwell, who has given us the "The Tipping Point", which allows us to visualize how a product or service with sufficient critical mass, the right "stickiness", and the right combination of salesmen, connectors, and mavens a product might tip, catch-on as Maney would say, didn't quite give us something practical to use when making decisions.

Maney has given us something practical to use. He has given us a lens, as he calls it, a mirror as I would call it, to understand the very basics of human psychology when it comes to seeking out products and services. It's a mirror because the markets are a reflection of ourselves. First, since we are sensory beings we like to be fully engaged in a high fidelity environment. In essence we like the high bandwidth experience of being there, live and in concert. Second, if we can't be there in person, then we are extremely lazy. These are the two extremes. We pay for things that simulate our senses, or we prefer the habit of convenience where we don't have to use our senses at all. We are willing to pay for the convenience as well.

Gladwell was never able to definitively explain "stickiness", that unknown phenomenon that produces an attraction to a product or service. Maney has given us the essence of the Gladwellian "stickiness".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Larry Underwood on October 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In 1985, some marketing genius at Coca Cola thought it would be a great idea to change the formula we all grew to know and love, and replace it with something that tasted even worse than RC Cola. The public, of course, was outraged, so the brain trust of Coke wisely chose to (quickly) bring back the old formula; hence, the birth of "Coca Cola Classic". Brilliant.

In retrospect, the debacle over Coke's decision to introduce a "new & improved" formula seems to have been a clever ploy to wake us up from our complacency; we took for granted we'd always have our Coke, but after having it suddenly taken away from us, we were helpless; except of course, we switched to Pepsi; after all, it tasted better than that new stuff Coke was pawning off.

In a fascinating study by Kevin Maney, we find out why some marketing ploys work & why some, like Wal-Mart's venture into urban areas, flopped. What Maney observes is a trade-off a consumer encounters; in the process, the simple choice is made to either accept or deny the new choice. Specifically, are the choices categorized "high in fidelity" (such as going to a rock concert, which is usually an event of total chaos) or "high in convenience" (going into a "convenience" store?). The trade offs are usually clear, in hindsight; success or failure of a marketing initiative seems so obvious, after the fact. Sometimes, things work; other times, they're disasters, and a few marketing gurus are given their walking papers, while investors get whacked, at least in the short term.

The conclusion seems to be, stick to what you do best. If you're a low cost provider, don't try to get too fancy.
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